Prep Volleyball

Gazette all-area volleyball 2019: Tipton's Sommer Daniel, Mount Vernon's Maggie Willems earn top honors

Daniel's rare feat was 1,000-plus kills, assists and digs; Willems guided Mustangs to the 3A state title

Tipton's Sommer Daniel passes the ball in a volleyball match this season against West Liberty. Daniel is the 2019 Gazett
Tipton's Sommer Daniel passes the ball in a volleyball match this season against West Liberty. Daniel is the 2019 Gazette-area player of the year. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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It’s a rare statistical feat, for sure. Unprecedented in Iowa, perhaps, though nobody can say for sure.

And it reflects Sommer Daniel’s four-year display of versatile brilliance. Or is that brilliant versatility?

This much is indisputable: Daniel helped put Tipton on the volleyball radar.

“She’s done it all for us, on the floor and off,” Tipton Coach Amy Calonder said. “One of her greatest legacies is that this year, we had 38 kids in practice that got to watch her and learn from her, and that will help us a lot going forward.”

A senior who will graduate early and leave for the University of Utah in less than a month, Daniel is the 2019 Gazette-area volleyball player of the year.

“There’s no way I would have been able to do this without my coaches and teammates, every single one of them,” said Daniel, who lifted Tipton to unprecedented heights — its first state-tournament appearance in 2017, then a Class 3A state runner-up finish in 2018.

The Tigers were ousted in the 3A regional finals this year by Nevada, but that tarnishes nothing.

Here are Daniel’s final career numbers: 1,611 kills, 1,827 assists, 1,135 digs. A triple-quadruple. Maybe it’s been done before, maybe it hasn’t. The list is very, very short.

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“It means a lot,” Daniel said. “You have to be in the perfect situation for that, and I was.”

In other words, she got to play virtually every position in her four years at Tipton. And the 5-foot-9 hitter/setter fit every role well. At Utah, she wants to be the setter. Really, though, she just wants to play.

“Setting is the plan, but I’m open to playing wherever,” she said. “I love volleyball. Whatever I need to do to get on the court, I’m going to do.”

Daniel headlines the 12-player all-area roster. She is joined by Lauren Schrock and Jorie Randall of Class 3A state-champion Mount Vernon, Macey Kleitsch and Ella Koloc of West Delaware, Jasmyn Bush of Union Community, Macy Daufeldt of West Liberty, Rylee Fay of Iowa City Liberty, Katie Kopriva of North Tama, Eve Magill of Cedar Rapids Xavier, Delaney Rice of Marion and Jada Wills of Dyersville Beckman.

Maggie Willems is the area coach of the year after piloting Mount Vernon’s dramatic championship run, which featured four postseason matches that went five sets.

 

A 1996 graduate of Mount Vernon, the 41-year-old Willems became the head coach in 2011, after six years as an assistant for Shirley Ryan.

“It was an absolute gift to play for Shirley and work under her,” Willems said. “Her attention to detail was amazing. Her teams did the little things right ... she was great at that.”

Willems always saw herself as a coach, but volleyball wasn’t her childhood focus.

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“I wanted to be a wrestling coach,” said Willems, whose father Terry Lessmeier was a longtime wrestling coach at Lincoln Community and North Cedar. “That was my dream.”

Willems played volleyball for four years at Midland University, an NAIA school in Fremont, Neb., and pole-vaulted for a year. She worked in Omaha for four years, then came home.

This season wasn’t always smooth sailing. Ranked No. 1 to start the season, the Mustangs stumbled early.

“I kept questioning myself throughout the season,” Willems said. “I knew the talent and potential was there ... I was thinking, ‘What do they need that I’m not giving them?’”

As recently as two years ago, the early struggles “might have left me despondent and frustrated,” she said. But a bout with breast cancer during the 2018 season changed her outlook.

“I’m more grateful, more patient now,” she said. “I think I’m better at sorting out whether something is a big deal or not.”

Willems owns a nine-year record of 252-106 with seven state-tournament appearances.

2019 Gazette all-area volleyball team

Jasmyn Bush, 5-8, sr., Union Community — Averaged 3.69 kills and 2.47 digs per set as the Knights (31-12) reached the Class 3A state semifinals. Posted a .298 kill efficiency. 3A first-team all-state.

Sommer Daniel, 5-9, sr., Tipton — Averaged 3.75 kills, 4.43 assists and 2.72 digs per set as the Tigers (32-7) reached the Class 3A regional finals. 3A first-team all-state. Posted a .260 kill efficiency. Signed with the University of Utah.

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Macy Daufeldt, 5-10, soph., West Liberty — Averaged 4.80 kills and 3.17 digs per set as the Comets (31-8) reached the Class 3A state quarterfinals. 3A first-team all-state. Committed to Drake University.

Rylee Fay, 5-9, sr., Iowa City Liberty — Averaged 0.93 kills, 5.20 assists and 0.70 aces per set as the Lightning (34-3) reached the Class 5A state quarterfinals. Posted a .289 kill efficiency. 5A second-team all-state. Signed with Missouri State University.

Macey Kleitsch, 5-10, sr., West Delaware — Averaged 4.80 kills and 3.17 digs per set as the Hawks (40-6) reached the Class 4A state semifinals. 4A first-team all-state. Signed with Grand View University.

Ella Koloc, 5-4, soph., West Delaware — Averaged 4.00 digs per set and served 95.2 percent as the Hawks (40-6) reached the Class 4A state semifinals. 4A second-team all-state.

Katie Kopriva, 6-0, sr., North Tama — Averaged 4.05 kills and 2.97 digs per set as the Redhawks (27-7) reached the Class 1A state semifinals. 1A first-team all-state.

Eve Magill, 6-5, jr., Cedar Rapids Xavier — Averaged 4.16 kills and 0.44 blocks per set as the Saints (28-7) reached the Class 4A state quarterfinals. 4A first-team all-state. Committed to Creighton University.

Jorie Randall, 5-5, jr., Mount Vernon — Averaged 4.27 digs per set as the Mustangs (36-10) captured the Class 3A state championship. 3A second-team all-state.

Delaney Rice, 6-2, sr., Marion — Averaged 3.72 kills and 0.69 blocks per set as the Indians (31-11) reached the Class 4A state semifinals. Posted a .352 kill efficiency. 4A first-team all-state. Signed with Saint Louis University.

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Lauren Schrock, 6-1, jr., Mount Vernon — Averaged 4.11 kills and 1.36 digs as the Mustangs (36-10) captured the Class 3A state championship. Posted a .324 kill efficiency. 3A first-team all-state. Committed to the University of Iowa.

Jada Wills, 5-10, sr., Dyersville Beckman — Averaged 4.05 kills and 2.31 digs per set as the Blazers (42-9) earned Class 2A state runner-up honors. Posted a .452 kill efficiency. 2A first-team all-state. Signed with Drake University.

Player of the year — Sommer Daniel, sr., Tipton

Coach of the year — Maggie Willems, Mount Vernon

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

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