Prep Volleyball

Meet the 2017 all-area volleyball team, highlighted by Megan Renner and Jefferson's Norton duo

Prep volleyball: Linn-Mar setter, Jefferson coaches lead Gazette squad

Linn-Mar's Megan Renner (6) sets the ball in the Lions' state-semifinal match against Cedar Falls. A junior and a Purdue commit, Renner is the 2017 Gazette-area player of the year. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Linn-Mar's Megan Renner (6) sets the ball in the Lions' state-semifinal match against Cedar Falls. A junior and a Purdue commit, Renner is the 2017 Gazette-area player of the year. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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Some aspects of volleyball are teachable, coachable.

Others, you’re just born with.

“The court sense and the savvy that Megan (Renner) has, you can’t teach,” Linn-Mar volleyball coach Teresa Bair said. “You’ve either got it or you don’t, and she’s got it.”

A 6-foot-2 junior setter who can distribute and terminate, Renner is the player of the year on The Gazette’s first all-area volleyball team.

 

The Purdue University recruit averaged 1.40 kills, 7.89 assists, 1.66 digs and 0.81 blocks per set this season to lead Linn-Mar (31-11) to the Class 5A state semifinals.

“We had some ups and downs this season, but coach sat us down and helped us refocus,” Renner said. “Then the season took an upturn and we were able to accomplish some special things.”

Renner is joined on the honor squad by three players (Maddie Slagle, Kaylee Donner and Maddy Baxter) from ascendant Cedar Rapids Jefferson and two (Alyssa Jaeger and Madi Wagaman) from 1A state-semifinalist Springville.

The rest of the team consists of Charlotte Richards of Cedar Rapids Xavier (the 4A player of the year, according to the Iowa Girls Coaches Association), along with Madison Larson of Independence, Abbey Weideman of Center Point-Urbana, Caitlyn Smith of Marion, Colby Greene of Iowa City West and Sommer Daniel of Tipton.

Will and Amy Norton, the husband-and-wife tandem who oversaw Jefferson’s rise from mediocrity to a Mississippi Valley Conference divisional championship and the first state tournament in 20 years, are the area coaches of the year.

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Renner spent most of her sophomore season as a hitter, then moved into her new role at setter this year.

“It was a completely different leadership role, but I knew I could do it,” she said.

Despite the new position, Renner remained an offensive threat.

“If I can make the other side of the net worry about me, too, it can free up a lot of options for my team,” she said.

“When she’s a threat, that pulls blockers and opens things up for everybody,” Bair said. “Megan is very inspired and very motivated, and obviously, she’s very athletic.”

 

Jefferson took a huge stride forward this season. After an 18-18 campaign in 2016, the J-Hawks surged to 39-7.

“We aren’t big, but we keep the ball alive and frustrate the other team,” Amy Norton said.

“I’m sad the season is over. It was a special group of girls. They love to compete, and they love to come to practice.”

Now 34, the Nortons met as students at Mount Mercy University. Both still play volleyball.

As coaches, Amy said, “Will does the majority of the practice planning. He leads practice and drills. I do more of the communication and the fundraising.”

She laughed.

“Will tends to be more of the bad guy in practice.”

They have a three-year record of 72-46, and the J-Hawks return six of seven starters for 2018.

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2017 Gazette all-area volleyball team

Maddy Baxter, 5-8, jr., S, Cedar Rapids Jefferson — Finished second in Class 5A in assists per set (9.59) and averaged 2.85 digs per game as Jefferson (39-7) won the MVC Mississippi Division title and reached the state tournament for the first time since 1997. IGCA 5A second-team all-state.

Sommer Daniel, 5-9, soph., S/OH, Tipton — Led the Tigers to their first state-tournament berth in school history. Averaged 4.04 kills, 4.23 assists and 2.55 digs per set. Tipton set a school record for wins in a 32-7 season and captured the River Valley Conference South Division title. IGCA Class 3A second-team all-state.

Kaylee Donner, 5-6, jr., L, Cedar Rapids Jefferson — Finished seventh in Class 5A in digs per set (4.83) as Jefferson (39-7) won the MVC Mississippi Division title and reached the state tournament for the first time since 1997. IGCA 5A honorable-mention all-state. Committed to the University of Northern Iowa.

Colby Greene, 6-3, sr., MH, Iowa City West — Averaged 3.23 kills and 0.82 blocks per set as West finished 22-16. Played on state-tournament teams in 2015 and 2016. IGCA Class 5A second-team all-state. Signed with Southeast Missouri State.

Alyssa Jaeger, 5-11, sr., MH, Springville — Averaged 2.26 kills and 1.10 blocks per set as the Orioles (39-3) advanced to the state tournament for the third straight year, the semifinals for the second consecutive year. Posted a .402 kill efficiency. IGCA Class 1A first-team all-state.

Madison Larson, 6-0, jr., OH, Independence — Finished fourth in Class 4A in kills per set (4.11) as the Mustangs (33-9) reached the state tournament. Posted a .413 kill efficiency. IGCA 4A first-team all-state.

Megan Renner, 6-2, jr., S, Linn-Mar — Led the Lions (31-11) to the Class 5A state semifinals, averaging 7.89 assists per set. A 95-percent server, she averaged 1.40 kills, 1.66 digs and 0.81 blocks per set. IGCA Class 5A first-team all-state. Committed to Purdue University.

Charlotte Richards, 6-0, sr., OH, Cedar Rapids Xavier — Selected the IGCA Class 4A player of the year (and first-team all-state) after leading the Saints (32-10) to the state semifinals for the second straight year. Third on the 4A kill chart (4.12 per set) and averaged 2.93 digs per set. Committed to Missouri-St. Louis.

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Maddie Slagle, 5-9, sr., OH, Cedar Rapids Jefferson — Averaged 3.01 kills and 3.72 digs per set as Jefferson (39-7) won the MVC Mississippi Division title and reached the state tournament for the first time since 1997. IGCA Class 5A first-team all-state. Signed with the University of Iowa.

Caitlyn Smith, 5-9, sr., S, Marion — Led the Indians (26-14) to their second consecutive Wamac Conference tournament championship. Averaged 9.15 assists per set this season and finished her career with 3,221 assists. IGCA Class 4A first-team all-state. Signed witb Drake University.

Madi Wagaman, 5-8, sr., S, Springville — Averaged 8.76 assists and 2.86 digs per set as the Orioles (39-3) advanced to the state tournament for the third straight year, the semifinals for the second consecutive year. IGCA Class 1A first-team all-state.

Abbey Weideman, 5-9, sr., OH, Center Point-Urbana — Finished sixth in Class 4A in kills per set (3.89) as the Stormin’ Pointers went 32-11 and won the Wamac Conference West Division crown. Posted 3.55 digs per set. IGCA Class 4A first-team all-state. Signed with the University of South Dakota.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Megan Renner, jr., Linn-Mar

COACHES OF THE YEAR: Will & Amy Norton, Cedar Rapids Jefferson

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

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