116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Not all of Jazmine Yamilkoski's post-surgery rehabilitation was physical.
'After surgery, my body just felt different,' she said. 'I had always been comfortable making cuts. I felt quick. But I didn't feel that way any more, and it really wore on me.
'I was really struggling. I didn't know if I was ever going to feel like an athlete again, physically or mentally.'
A senior setter for the Cedar Rapids Xavier volleyball team, Yamilkoski suffered a torn labrum in her left hip, diagnosed shortly after Xavier's 2019 season. She had surgery in January, was on crutches for seven weeks and couldn't run until April.
'I got into a mental block,' she said. 'For a long time, my confidence was super low.'
Her path back was a long one. But not a lonely one.
Usually it's a setter that sticks around to give her hitters extra reps. In this case, it was the other way around.
'Elyse (Winter), Katy (Garrison), some other girls ... they'd stay after practice,' Yamilkoski said. 'Or we'd work out late on a Friday night. They wanted to help me out.'
They wanted their old setter back. They needed her to chase down that elusive state championship.
In the end, they got both.
Yamilkoski averaged 10.31 assists per set, and Xavier (26-6) flipped a switch once the postseason started, sweeping its way to the Class 4A title.
A four-year starter and a Tennessee Tech recruit, Yamilkoski is the 2020 Gazette-area player of the year.
'She has always had the ability to perform on the court,' Xavier Coach Austin Filer said. 'This year, she grew a lot as a leader. Once she came back from her injury, she was the catalyst to get kids to work hard, to do things they didn't want to do, in order for us to win a championship.'
The 4A state player of the year, Yamilkoski headlines a 12-player area roster. Also honored are Xavier's Eve Magill, Iowa City Liberty's Cassidy Hartman and Shelby Kimm, Mount Vernon's Sydney Dennis and Lauren Schrock, Meg Besler of Western Dubuque, Macy Daufeldt of West Liberty, Ella Koloc of West Delaware, Kiersten Schmitt of Dyersville Beckman, Belle Weber of Union Community and Emerson Whittenbaugh of Maquoketa Valley.
Magill is making her third appearance on the team, Schrock, Koloc and Daufeldt their second each.
Randy Dolson, who piloted Liberty's run to the Class 5A finals after a three-week COVID-related interruption, is the area coach of the year.
Dolson has coached the Lightning since the school opened in 2017, and the program has ascended quickly. Liberty is 89-41 with two state-tournament appearances. And with a young crew of hitters, the best could be yet to come.
'We're still building a tradition,' said Dolson, who has coached at a variety of levels for 35 years. 'We want to be a championship-caliber program for a long time to come, and we're not there yet.'
Liberty (24-3) was sitting at 1-1 early in the season when Iowa City schools went into virtual learning, shutting down the program.
'That didn't mean the girls didn't get together to stage some workouts,' Dolson said. 'They were getting a lot of touches and staying fresh.
'Between taking temperatures, sanitizing equipment and hand-sanitizing, it was a heck of a team effort.'
Still 1-1 on Sept. 26, the Lightning restarted and took off, winning 23 of their final 25 matches. They avenged regular-season losses to West Des Moines Valley and West Des Moines Dowling at state before bowing to Ankeny in a four-set final.
'We had strong leadership. The girls set their goals high,' Dolson said. 'They had a mission, to win a state championship. They signed a statement and really bought into it.'
With four starters back, including Hartman and Kimm, the mission certainly will remain the same in 2021.
Along with Magill and Garrison, Yamilkoski was a four-year cornerstone for Xavier. The Saints reached the state tournament all four years, but a championship was elusive until the final go-around.
'Once we got to regionals, the final matches in our gym, it sank in that the end was coming,' Yamilkoski said. 'The four years went so fast.'
The Saints wouldn't be denied again. They played five postseason matches, winning 15 sets without a misstep.
Yamilkoski began her volleyball career at age 11.
'I wanted to be a setter, because my mom was a setter,' she said. 'I didn't have a position in fifth grade. Then, in sixth grade, I didn't make any teams.'
By eighth grade, she was a setter for Six Pack, one of the best club teams in the Midwest. Then it was on to Xavier.
'Austin terrified me,' Yamilkoski said. 'As time went on, I was able to adjust to him, and him to me, and we found a mutual trust.'
2020 Gazette all-area volleyball team
Meg Besler, 5-11, sr., OH, Western Dubuque — Averaged 3.52 kills and 0.51 blocks per set, posting a .377 kill efficiency, as the Bobcats (25-11) reached the Class 4A state semifinals. Earned 4A first-team all-state honors.
Macy Daufeldt, 5-10, jr., OH, West Liberty — Second-time selection. Averaged 4.50 kills and 3.23 digs per set, posting a .388 kill efficiency, as the Comets (26-7) reached the Class 3A regional finals. Earned 3A second-team all-state honors. Committed to Drake University.
Sydney Dennis, 5-6, sr., S, Mount Vernon — Averaged 9.29 assists, 1.68 digs and 0.50 aces per set, serving 97.0 percent, as the Mustangs (32-7) reached the Class 3A state final. Earned 3A second-team all-state honors. Committed to the University of Iowa.
Cassidy Hartman, 6-0, soph., OH, Iowa City Liberty — Averaged 4.40 kills and 2.90 digs per set, posting a .360 kill efficiency, as the Lightning (24-3) reached the Class 5A state final. Earned 5A first-team all-state honors and a member of the Elite team.
Shelby Kimm, 5-11, soph., MH, Iowa City Liberty — Averaged 2.49 kills and 0.71 blocks per set, posting a .281 kill efficiency, as the Lightning (24-3) reached the Class 5A state final. Earned 5A second-team all-state honors.
Ella Koloc, 5-4, jr., L, West Delaware — Second-time selection. Averaged 4.07 digs per set and served 95.8 percent as the Hawks (30-12) reached the Class 4A state final. Earned 4A first-team all-state honors.
Eve Magill, 6-5, sr., OH, Cedar Rapids Xavier — Third-time selection. Averaged 3.24 kills and 0.84 blocks per set, posting a .296 kill efficiency, as the Saints (26-6) won the Class 4A state championship. Earned 4A first-team all-state honors. Committed to Creighton University.
Kiersten Schmitt, 5-11, jr., OH/S, Dyersville Beckman — Averaged 3.72 kills, 2.93 assists and 0.84 aces per set, posting a .366 kill efficiency, as the Blazers (29-10) reached the Class 2A regional semifinals. Earned 2A first-team honors. Committed to Iowa State University.
Lauren Schrock, 6-1, sr., OH, Mount Vernon — Second-time selection. Averaged 3.70 kills per set, posting a .275 kill efficiency, as the Mustangs (32-7) reached the Class 3A state finals. Earned 3A first-team all-state honors. Committed to Central Michigan University.
Belle Weber, 5-9, sr., OH, Union Community — Averaged 5.09 kills and 2.73 digs per set, posting a .403 kill efficiency, as the Knights (31-10) reached the Class 3A state quarterfinals. Earned 3A first-team all-state honors.
Emerson Whittenbaugh, 5-10, sr., OH, Maquoketa Valley — Averaged 6.13 kills per set (second in the state, all classes) and 5.70 digs per set, posting a .396 kill efficiency, as the Wildcats went 15-13. Earned Class 2A third-team all-state honors.
Jazmine Yamilkoski, 5-9, sr., S, Cedar Rapids Xavier — Averaged 10.31 assists, 0.93 kills and 2.11 digs per set, posting a .435 kill efficiency, as the Saints (26-6) won the Class 4A state championship. Earned 4A first-team all-state honors, named 4A state player of the year. Committed to Tennessee Tech University.
Player of the Year — Jazmine Yamilkoski, 5-9, sr., S, Cedar Rapids Xavier
Coach of the Year — Randy Dolson, Iowa City Liberty
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