BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison girls volleyball team is hoping to build on last year’s conference title for a deeper run in the post season.
The Hounds ended the season 22-10 with a loss to Cedar Rapids Xavier in the second round of the post season after knocking off Keokuk.
Senior Amber Dilsaver returns as the Southeast Conference’s most dangerous player at the net with 387 kills, a full 178 ahead of Fairfield’s Shelby Heston. Dilsaver also finished the season with a 30% kill efficiency. A kill is a scoring hit off a spike or tip. Defensively, she led the conference with 79 blocks on the season.
Senior Courtney Woodley was fifth overall in the loop in 2016 with 185 kills and 15% kill efficiency. Junior Kaeli Hutson and senior McKenna Fehseke were also in the top 10 in kills for the Hounds.
“Our kids wanna win conference again this year. Last year we went 8-0 and did that, but now we want to move beyond the second round and get that chance to go to state,” said Head Coach Kent Bailey.
The Hounds lost two components of the Southeast Iowa Conference championship team in Chayse Lowney and Brittiney Harris, but are returning four 1st team all conference players in Dilsaver, Hutson, senior Leigh Johnson and junior Josie Pumphrey.
Bailey, who’s in his first year back as head coach, has seen most of the girls on his team when he was junior varsity coach and through youth volleyball.
“I’ve coached a lot of these kids previously,” Bailey said. “I was junior varsity coach for the past three years so I know them and they know me. They know what gets me frustrated and it’s usually attitude more than play.”
Johnson almost doubled the field as a junior with 802 assists to lead the conference in 2016 at close to 10 assists per set.
“We’ve got Leigh back as a setter and Amber back in the middle. We’re also going to be relying on McKenna Fehseke as an outside hitter, Jazmine Bass at the outside or maybe middle hitter. Shyla Farmer is working on the outside hitter spot and Courtney is back in the outside hitter spot,” Bailey said.
Pumphrey was third in the conference in digs last year with 304 at 3.62/set clip.
Senior Kamryn Bailey will return as a back up hitter and defensive specialist with 1.54 digs per set.
The preseason has been productive for the Hounds who played at an Iowa State camp and walked away with a title among 16 teams.
“We won our division and the kids were able to come home with medals,” Bailey said. “We took three seniors, two juniors, a sophomore, and two freshmen. It was team camp so we got to see a lot of different teams. There were 16 teams in our division.”
Bailey said recent trends would indicate that Fairfield will pose the toughest threat in the conference. The Lady Trojans went 21-12 on the season followed by Mt. Pleasant 17-15.
Bailey will get help on the bench from Mike Davis who was a junior varsity coach under Mike Helling and helps out with Burlington clubs. Amy Doherty and Kayla Hendrix will also be helping this year.