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The Gazette area’s best in volleyball for 2022: Iowa City Liberty’s Cassidy Hartman and Allie Kelly
The area’s player and coach of the year led the Lightning to the Class 5A state championship
NORTH LIBERTY — Allie Kelly will be the first to tell you that she was the beneficiary of positive circumstances.
“(Former coach) Randy (Dolson) built a good foundation here. We all know that,” Kelly said.
Experienced, talented, committed players ... that doesn’t hurt, either.
And this fall, it all came together.
Iowa City Liberty won 17 of its final 18 matches to claim the Class 5A state volleyball championship, the school’s first team title in any sport.
As a result, the Lightning sweep the top awards on The Gazette’s 2022 all-area team. Four-year starter Cassidy Hartman is the player of the year, and Kelly — in her first year as the Bolts’ sole head coach — is the coach of the year.
A 6-foot-1 outside hitter headed to the University of Northern Iowa, Hartman is a three-time Elite all-state pick. She led the Lightning to four state-tournament appearances, capped by the title in November in Coralville.
“She’s definitely the best player Liberty has ever seen,” Kelly said. “The accolades speak for themselves. She was a complete player when she came in on Day 1. She wasn’t scared of the upperclassmen.
“She came in ready to make her mark, and she certainly has done that.”
This season, Hartman averaged 4.98 kills and 3.97 digs per set. She concluded her career with 1,542 kills and 1,368 digs.
She was erratic at times in the first two rounds of the state tournament, but picked it up in the finals, recording 26 kills and 22 digs in a four-set win over Pleasant Valley.
“If I’m struggling with a skill, I have something else I can go to, to regain confidence,” Hartman said before the state tournament. “If I’m struggling with my hitting, I can go to the back row and work on my passing.
“That makes all of my skills better.”
Kelly, 29, was an all-stater herself as Allie Hutcheson at Cedar Rapids Kennedy, from which she graduated in 2012. She played a season at Northern Colorado before finishing her education at Iowa State.
A high-school math teacher, she spent a year at Norwalk before joining Dolson’s staff when Liberty opened in 2017.
She was elevated to co-head coach in 2021, then took over when Dolson retired after last season.
“We brought (veteran coach) Scott Sanders aboard this year (as an assistant), and he brought a lot of experience I certainly needed to help me,” Kelly said.
Liberty (33-8) started the season ranked No. 1, but took some hits against elite competition early in the season.
“I think back to our first state appearance in 2019,” Kelly said. “We got there, we hadn’t had any adversity, and we didn’t know how to handle it.
“Our tough schedule really helped us this year.”
Liberty beat Urbandale, Ankeny Centennial and Pleasant Valley at state, all in four sets.
Kelly is 67-13 in two seasons.
“Every coach has a personality,” she said. “I am excitable. I think I learned to have more composure this year. I was going to give my season to these girls.”
The all-area squad consists of 12 players, and Hartman is among four who earned Elite all-state recognition by the Iowa Girls Coaches Association.
Marion’s Avery Van Hook, Western Dubuque’s Ella Meyer and Mount Vernon’s Madeleine Miller were Elite picks. Van Hook and Miller were state players of the year in 4A and 3A, respectively.
The rest of the team consists of Liberty’s Shelby Kimm, Libby Fandel of 4A state champion Cedar Rapids Xavier, Bliss Beck of Clear Creek Amana, Aubrey Gates of Union Community, Nia Howard of Springville, Libby Lansing of Western Dubuque, Chloe Meester of Mount Vernon and Alivia Schulte of West Delaware.
The 2022 Gazette all-area volleyball team
MH Bliss Beck, 6-2, jr., Clear Creek Amana — Averaged 3.47 kills and 1.33 blocks per set as the Clippers (34-11) advanced to the Class 4A state finals. Posted a .411 kill efficiency. IGCA 4A 1st-team all-state. Drake University commit.
OH Libby Fandel, 6-0, soph., Cedar Rapids Xavier — Averaged 4.00 kills and 2.36 digs per set as the Saints (33-4) captured the Class 4A state championship. Posted a .252 kill efficiency. IGCA 4A first-team all-state and 4A all-tournament captain.
OH Aubrey Gates, 5-11, sr., Union Community — Averaged 4.87 kills and 2.24 digs per set as the Knights (42-10) reached the Class 3A state tournament. Posted a .340 kill efficiency. IGCA 3A first-team all-state. Signed with Sioux Falls University.
OH Cassidy Hartman, 6-0, sr., Iowa City Liberty — Averaged 4.98 kills and 3.97 digs per set as the Lightning (33-8) captured the Class 5A state championship. Posted a .348 kill efficiency. Played in four state tournaments. IGCA Elite all-state, 5A first-team all-state and 5A all-tournament captain. University of Northern Iowa signee.
S Nia Howard, 5-6, sr., Springville — Finished her career with more than 3,000 assists. Averaged 8.98 assists per set as the Orioles (38-4) advanced to the Class 1A state semifinals, their fourth straight state appearance. IGCA 1A first-team all-state.
MH Shelby Kimm, 6-0, sr., Iowa City Liberty — Averaged 3.19 kills and 4.15 digs per set as the Lightning (33-8) captured the Class 5A state championship. Posted a .295 kill efficiency. Played in four state tournaments. IGCA 5A first-team all-state. Signed with St. Cloud State University.
MH Libby Lansing, 6-1, sr., Western Dubuque — Averaged 3.23 kills and 1.06 blocks per set as the Bobcats (25-11) reached the Class 4A state semifinals. Posted a .470 kill efficiency. Played on four state-tournament teams, winning the title in 2021. Class 4A first-team all-state.
OH Chloe Meester, 6-2, soph., Mount Vernon — Averaged 5.19 kills and 1.55 digs per set as the Mustangs (35-6) reached the Class 3A state semifinals. Posted a .421 kill efficiency. IGCA 3A first-team all-state.
L Ella Meyer, 5-2, sr., Western Dubuque — Averaged 6.75 digs per set as the Bobcats (25-11) reached the Class 4A state semifinals. Played on four state-tournament teams, winning the title in 2021. IGCA Elite all-state and 4A first-team all-state. Western Illinois University signee.
S Madeleine Miller, 6-0, sr., Mount Vernon — Averaged 1.71 kills, 10.23 assists and 2.47 digs per set as the Mustangs (35-6) reached the Class 3A state semifinals. Posted a .503 kill efficiency. IGCA Elite all-state and 3A first-team all-state (player of the year). University of New Mexico signee.
OH Alivia Schulte, 5-9, sr., West Delaware — Averaged 2.59 kills and 3.25 digs per set as the Hawks (29-15) reached the Class 4A regional finals. A member of the Hawks’ 2021 3A state-championship team. IGCA 4A first-team all-state.
S Avery Van Hook, 5-10, sr., Marion — Averaged 2.22 kills, 8.81 assists and 2.50 digs per set as the Wolves (35-7) reached the Class 4A state quarterfinals. Posted a .321 kill efficiency. IGCA Elite all-state and 4A first-team all-state (player of the year). University of South Dakota signee.
Player of the year — Cassidy Hartman, sr., Iowa City Liberty
Coach of the year — Allie Kelly, Iowa City Liberty