Net minders: Mix of seniors, underclassmen dot all-area volleyball team.
By BRETT MARSHALL
If you were to put the 2012 Garden City Telegram All-Area volleyball team on the same side of the court, there would be plenty of smiles on a coach's face.
And if you were to put the two coaches who share this year's All-Area Coach of the Year honor, the players would have just the right mentoring to be hugely successful.
Two returners from the 2011 All-Area team, including repeat Player of the Year Casey Curran (see separate story) of Garden City High School, highlight this year's elite 6-player team. The other returner is Holcomb junior Haley Heydman.
Two other seniors in addition to Curran also make their first appearance on the all-area first team — Ingalls' Tara Whipple and Lakin's Darrie Rogers. The two remaining top six selections are underclassmen — junior Bailey Nickel of Scott City and sophomore Kyann Eslick of Ulysses.
The two coaches sharing the honor this year both led their respective programs to 30-win seasons.
Garden City, Sr.
In leading the Lady Buffaloes to an 18-15 season mark, a runner-up in the Class 6A sub-state tournament and a repeat of the Western Athletic Conference title, the 6-0 Curran proved to be one of the most versatile players in the area.
She finished her final season with 246 kills, 303 assists and 218 digs to demonstrate her all-around court prowess. In doing so, Curran earned all-WAC honors for the second consecutive season.
She recorded 50 service aces during her final season and also accounted for 77 blocks. Her season highs came with 13 kills against Maize South, 17 assists twice and 20 digs against Liberal. She had her season high of nine service aces against eventual 6A state champion Topeka-Washburn Rural.
"I think Casey's biggest strengths were her leadership skills, her competitiveness and the fact that she played positions to help the team," said GCHS coach Sara Stecki.
Most memorable moment of 2012 season: Winning the Western Athletic Conference for the second year in a row. "We worked so hard and that day we truly shined. The main thing was we also had fun doing it."
Favorite athlete(s): Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor.
Favorite food: Anything and everything Mexican, especially chips and salsa.
Favorite class in school: English.
Person I most admire: My mom. "She has done everything for me. She has put a lot of hours into my sports and I want her to know how much I do appreciate her."
If I could meet one person in the world, it would be: Queen Latifa.
Favorite pasttime: Watching movies with my dad.
Area of college study: Nursing.
Sophomore Kyann Eslick, who plays for her father, Courtney, at Ulysses saw her early season disrupted by a broken finger.
But the Lady Tiger volleyball standout didn't let that stop her when she returned from the injury.
She helped her team post an overall 29-10 season record, won the Great West Activities Conference tournament and reached the semifinals of the Class 4A sub-state tourney before losing to eventual champion Buhler.
"She has been one of our leaders throughout the season," her father/coach said. "Her hitting has been a strength all season, but she's got great court sense and sees where everybody is on the court."
While some of the team's statistics were incomplete due to a computer crash, Eslick did compile 363 kills, had 32 solo blocks with four assists and recorded 23 service aces.
Most memorable moment of 2012 season: "My finger was broken and I came back to play with my whole left hand taped up. We ended up beating Scott City."
Favorite athlete: Sarah Noriega.
Favorite food: Mexican.
Favorite class in school: Plastics.
Person I most admire: My aunt Leanna.
If I could meet one person in the world, it would be: Allyson Felix.
As the second repeat selection from 2011, junior Haley Heydman of Holcomb played an integral role in the Lady Longhorns season. The 30-win season was the best for the school since 1998 and Heydman was the offensive spark for coach Jennifer Barrett.
In the 38 matches played, Heydman, a 5-9 hitter, recorded 350 kills, had 78 blocks on defense and came up with 274 digs. She had 31 service aces as well.
"I think Haley just brought a lot of energy to every match, and all the girls worked well together with her," Barrett said of Heydman. "Her jumping ability, blocking and hitting all improved from a year ago. She was just much stronger."
The Lady Longhorns registered wins over state 2A-ranked Kiowa County when the Lady Mavericks were unbeaten, and they beat three other state-ranked teams."
In addition, Heydman and her teammates knocked off Class 6A Dodge City on two separate occasions, and won the Dighton Invitational.
Most memorable moment of 2012 season: "When we beat Kiowa County/Greensburg for the first time ever. They were undefeated and state ranked."
Favorite athlete: Kerri Lee Walsh Jennings.
Favorite food: Mexican, pepperoni pizza.
Favorite class in school: Math and strength class.
Person I most admire: My sister (Trista Schmitt) and my mom (Alicia).
If I could meet one person in the world, it would be: Well, more than one! All the Kardashians, Kobe Bryant, Lil Wayne and anybody on MTV.
Favorite pasttime/memory: Making varsity my freshman year.
Future plans: Work hard to go play volleyball somewhere in college.
Scott City, Jr.
Junior Bailey Nickel played a key role in the success of the Lady Beavers in helping the team post a 22-15 season won-loss record.
The Lady Beavers were runners-up in the Great West Activities Conference tournament and saw their season come to an end with a tough loss to league rival Holcomb in the Class 3A sub-state semifinals.
Nevertheless, Nickel enjoyed a banner year for coach Jordan Shay, the 2010 Telegram area coach of the year.
While earning first-team all-league honors in the GWAC, Nickel registered 251 kills and had a serving percentage of .913. She tallied 30 solo blocks and 39 block assists while also making 159 digs.
"She's a powerful player and I think she really made great strides in her overall game this season," Shay said of her junior hitter. "I think she'll be one of the best players in 3A next year and am excited to see how much better she will get."
Most memorable moment of 2012 season: Winning against our rival, Holcomb, at the league (Great West Activities Conference) tournament.
Favorite athlete: Destinee Hooker.
Favorite food: Any Chinese.
Favorite class in school: History.
Person I most admire: My Grandmother.
If I could meet one person in the world, it would be: Matt Smith.
Favorite pasttime: Definitely playing volleyball.
If you asked Darrie Rogers, her senior volleyball season at Lakin High School was a resounding success.
And why not?
After all, the senior Lady Bronc led her team to a 27-10 overall season record, a first-place finish in the regular season standings of the Hi-Plains League and a runner-up finish in the league tournament. Coach Steve Davidson's squad, with Rogers playing a major role, took eventual 3A sub-state champion to a pair of 25-20 sets to close out the team's successful season.
"Darrie was always one of our mainstays and just was very consistent all season," Davidson said of his senior standout. "She would do whatever you asked, and she could play all the positions on the court well."
Rogers finished her final season with 225 kills and a kill efficiency of 15 percent. Her serve reception efficiency was 2.38/3.0 and she registered 24 solo blocks and 17 assists. Her serving percentage of .860 saw her finish with 27 aces in 284 attempts.
Most memorable moment of 2012 season: Winning the Oakley tournament and beating Scott City in it.
Favorite athlete: Hannah Werth.
Favorite class in school: English.
Person(s) I most admire: My parents.
If I could meet one person in the world, it would be: Channing Tatum.
Favorite pasttime: Being with friends and family.
College plans: Attend Dodge City Community College.
Area of intended study: Elementary education.
If one were passing out grades for volleyball class, Tara Whipple would be an A student.
Consider that the Ingalls senior, a 5-5 mainstay for the Lady Bulldogs, had a 92 percent serve percentage, a 93 percent passing efficiency and was a 82 percent on her dig efficiency, a high mark indeed would be deserved.
Whipple, an honorable mention volleyball selection a year ago for all-area, was also a second team all-area basketball pick her junior year in helping the Lady Bulldogs reach the 1A-Division II state basketball tournament in March. This year, she was a sparkplug on a team that posted a 31-11 record and made it to the state volleyball tournament in Hays. While her team didn't make it out of pool play, the Lady Bulldogs did provide eventual state champion Baileyville B&B with perhaps its toughest match, taking Baileyville to three sets.
Coach Kim Batman said that Whipple's consistency was one of the strongest attributes that she brought to the court.
"You always knew you'd get the extra effort and she's got great court presence," Batman said of Whipple. "There's a big amount of trust needed when you're on the floor and the other girls knew they could trust her."
For the season, Whipple finished with 325 kills, an average of nine per game. Her 92 percent efficiency on serves came on 305 of 330 successful ones. She was 420 of 515 on serve receives/passes while also getting 180 of 220 digs. In her passing, Whipple had 230 of 248 for that 93 percent rating. Whipple was recently named to the Kansas Volleyball Coaches Association's second-team for Class 1A-Division II players, and was all-league in the Southern Plains/Iroquois this season.
Most memorable moment of 2012 season: Coming back to beat Baileyville B B in the second game at the state tournament and taking them to a third. The energy and intensity is something that I have never felt before.
Favorite athlete(s): Jackie Stiles, Shalee Lehning.
Favorite food: Roast beef and homemade noodles.
Favorite class in school: Anatomy and Physiology.
Person I most admire: My mom, because of all the work she does for the family.
Favorite pasttime: Playing basketball.
College plans: Unknown, hope to play some sport.
Area of intended study: Physical therapy/athletic training. Would like to coach.