BY JOHN BOHNENKAMP
DONNELLSON – The SEI Superconference South Division is loaded with some of the top volleyball teams in the state.
Central Lee coach Amy Cook believes her team has the experience and the talent to be in that mix.
The Hawks are coming off a 22-win season in which they had wins over Class 1A state champion Notre Dame and Holy Trinity, reached the Superconference Tournament championship match, and advanced to the regional semifinals.
“Coming off a successful year does help,” Cook said.
Cook has seen that in the approach of her players in the preseason.
“They come in the gym, and they’re ready to go,” she said. “It’s a positive environment. This team gets along well. They want to have fun.”
It also helps bringing back experience. The Hawks have seven seniors on their roster.
That experience shows up in their lineup, and the returning production.
The Hawks lost senior Mya Merschman, a dominant hitter who led the team with 306 kills last season. But there are some significant numbers returning.
Senior middle hitter Meghan Hopp had 148 kills last season. Junior outside hitter/defensive specialist Makayla Morrison had 147 kills and 176 digs.
“Mya was a big part of the offense, and we will miss her,” Cook said. “But these girls know they have to step up.”
Hopp and Morrison will be in the starting lineup along with senior right-side Maura Watkins, junior libero Alix Congdon, setter Macy Watkins, middle hitter Alivia Myhre and outside hitter Kelsie Stewart.
The Hawks, who open the season on Monday at Keokuk, will be tested early, seeing No. 1 (Class 1A) Notre Dame and No. 3 (Class 1A) New London in the opening two weeks.
Throw in No. 9 (Class 1A) Holy Trinity and No. 8 (Class 3A) West Burlington in the South Division, and the Hawks know they will be tested often.
That’s OK, Cook said.
“It only gets us better as a team when we get to the postseason,” she said.
The Hawks’ motto is “Start Strong, Stay Strong.”
“We fell behind early at times last year, and we know with our schedule we can’t do that,” Cook said. “So we know we have to always start strong and stay that way. Our girls believe mentally and physically we can do that.”