Starting early a key to success

All-state softball teams loaded with area players

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From eighth-grade varsity players to sophomore all-staters. That’s been the path for Alburnett catcher Maddison Volesky and shortstop Taylor Huber.

“Both kids, they started hot and just kind of stayed hot,” Alburnett Coach Kevin Johnson said after learning Volesky and Huber were named to the Class 2A softball all-state first team by the Iowa Girls Coaches Association. “They didn’t have many down times in the season ... they were so steady.”

Volesky and Huber were effective table-setters at the top of the batting order for Alburnett (28-13), finishing one-two in hitting (Volesky .442, Huber .441) for a team that finished fifth at state. Huber was fifth in 2A with 35 stolen bases, and both are first-time selections in their third year of varsity softball.

“They would not have been able to do the things they did as sophomores if they didn’t have that eighth and freshman year experience,” Johnson said. “Talented kids, and lucky to have players like them.”

No area team had more first-team members than Highland (32-3) with three, highlighted by pitcher Katie Springer, now a two-time honoree who was tied for third in the state with 28 wins. Sophomore third baseman Cheyann Adamson — third in 2A in hits (61) and batting average (.540) — also was named along with first baseman Morgan Craig,

“I’m just very proud of them,” Highland Coach Carrie Wieland said. “They all worked hard to help us have a great season.”

Like the Alburnett pair, all three played varsity as eighth-graders.

“I think it’s incredibly important,” Wieland said. “I think that they need that experience to foresee the future. ... So the more they play, the more ability there is for them to get stronger and better and know the game.”

Class 4A state runner-up Solon (39-3) matched Highland with three members on the first team, led by a terrific performance from junior Taylor Nearad. She finished in the state top five in hits, runs, doubles and RBIs. Shortstop Mallory Madsen earned her second nod and pitcher Emily Ira was rewarded for her dominant season on the mound (23-2, 276 strikeouts).

Linn-Mar Lion Katie Sommer (second in state with a .617 batting average) closed out a brilliant prep career with her third appearance on the 5A first team (the first two at Dubuque Senior).

Metro standouts Erin Drahozal of Cedar Rapids Xavier (4A) and Cedar Rapids Jefferson’s Maddie Hansen (5A) made the first team for the second consecutive year, as did Megan Bonnett of Iowa City Regina (2A).

Adara Opiola of Iowa City West and City High freshman Bryn Hanrahan also were named to the 5A first team, West Delaware’s Hannah Cole made the 4A first team, Benton Community’s Amber Fiser and Alyssa Wiebel were 3A honorees, along with Amber Kral of Mid-Prairie and Samantha Croghan of Center Point-Urbana, and Lansing Kee’s Kendra Cooper and Courtney Cooper made the 1A team.

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