Izzy Steele: Honor. Duty. Volleyball.

Before senior season at Lisbon, she spent her summer in basic training

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CENTRAL CITY — Izzy Steele is an athlete, a leader, a chatterbox.

She’s also a U.S. Army private, second class.

A senior at Lisbon High School, Steele didn’t spend a summer filled with bonfires and Snapchats. Instead, there were countless push-ups and situps, and the acquaintance with an 8-pound rifle she hauled non-stop throughout a 10-week basic-training mission at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

“My grandpa (Bob Steele) was in the Army. My dad (Kevin) was a captain in the Army and was deployed twice,” Izzy said before the Lions prepared for a volleyball match Tuesday night against Central City.

“I love America. When I turned 17, my dad talked to me about this. I knew it would be a life-changing thing, and I was nervous about it. But when I talked to the recruiters, they won me over.”

Also involved in soccer, basketball, student council and speech, Steele was a starter for the volleyball team last year as a junior. She understood a summer away from the team would put her behind her teammates and her opponents.

And she didn’t hesitate.

“I had her in government class last year, and she said she was going to basic training for the entirety of the summer,” Lions Coach Lance Kamaus said.

He was speechless.

“I don’t know of hardly anyone who makes that decision before their senior year,” he said. “And I’m sure the number of females is extremely low.”

June 5 was departure day for Fort Leonard Wood, a U.S. Army installation in the Ozark Mountains.

“When I got there, I’ve never been so scared,” Steele said. “I wasn’t going to see my family or friends for 10 weeks.”

She had access to her cellphone twice all summer, for 30 seconds each time. She learned the lost art of writing letters back home. Soon, she started receiving them in return.

“That was something to look forward to every day,” she said.

Basic training, of course, is a physical, mental and emotional grind. Steele’s version consisted of three phases.

The Red Phase was introductory and dealt with physical conditioning and classroom time. The White Phase was rifle marksmanship.

“I was assigned a weapon, and I carried it with me everywhere,” she said. “I had to pass a marksmanship test at the end, and I hit 33 of 40.”

The Blue Phase, she said, was “the finishing touches” on basic training, culminating in an advanced fitness test.

Among the drills were “muscle failure” — basically, push-ups and situps until she could do no more — and “eviction.”

“Eviction meant you had to take everything from your room,” Steele said. “You had to (disassemble) your bunk beds, take them apart and take them downstairs and put them back together.”

In silence. Most everything was done in silence. Steele doesn’t do silence well.

“I’m a really talkative person. I make friends with everybody,” she said. “There, you get down to business. I had a hard time being quiet.”

Family Day was Aug. 16, graduation the following day, then Steele’s family and friends took her home.

Throughout her absence, the Lions went through the summer volleyball circuit, and practice had been going for almost two weeks when she returned home.

Though she was winning most of the sprints in practice thanks to her new conditioning level, Steele hadn’t touched a volleyball in months. She was rusty.

“It was kind of iffy those first couple practices,” Kamaus said. “We have more options across the front (line) this year, and other girls were ahead of her.”

Gradually, Steele is working her way back into the rotation. She’s sixth on the teams in kills (1.10 per set), and Lisbon (12-2) looks like the team to beat in the Tri-Rivers Conference East Division.

As Steele pushes to increase her court time, Kamaus notices a change in her.

“She’s always been outspoken, but when you flip back the tapes from our matches, she’s always the one you hear most,” Kamaus said. “She’s always encouraging everyone, even the kids she’s competing with for playing time.”

After graduation, Steele intends to pursue a secondary-education major at the University of Iowa. Her tuition will be waived due to her military service.

She faces six weeks of advanced individual training next summer in Virginia and is considered a member of the National Guard.

“It’s something I’m passionate about,” she said. “If I ever get deployed, there’s nothing cooler than to be able to say I fought for my country.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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