116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — The first day of classes is two weeks away.
Homework, though? That starts now.
Coach Roxanne Paulsen sent her Marion High School volleyball squad out with an assignment Monday, following the first day of practice.
It centered on reading about something she called The Four C’s — composure, concentration, confidence and commitment.
For the Wolves, there’s more to volleyball than volleyball. They started practice with a 10-minute session of writing into journals. They’ll do that from now until the season ends, which they hope is sometime in early November.
“Journaling, it sets the tone for the day,” said Paulsen, who has built an enviable program in her first 18 years at Marion — 556 victories, nine state tournaments, a championship in 2008.
“It’s a good way to set goals, build competitiveness and become more mentally tough.”
The Wolves are coming off another memorable season — a 37-9 record, a share of the Wamac Conference East Division title, a berth in the Class 4A state semifinals.
Five starters are back, led by 4A first-team all-stater Avery Van Hook, a senior who has committed to the University of South Dakota.
Last year, Van Hook served a dual role as both setter and hitter. She anticipates being the primary setter this season.
“That’s the way it’s going to be at college,” she said. “Whatever the team needs is what I’m going to need.”
Whatever is needed. Whatever it takes. That’s a common theme with this team.
“I want to be able to do whatever the team needs me to do,” senior Peyton Johnson said. “I’m there for whatever is needed from me. This team has really good leadership, it always has.”
Van Hook has an array of weapons at her disposal, including Johnson and juniors Michaela Goad and Sophia Paulsen.
“We’re not a very tall team, but then, we haven’t been tall for the last three years,” Van Hook said. “But we’ll battle with our passion and our determination to go for every ball.”
A 5-foot-11 middle hitter, Goad is destined for a big jump this year, Coach Paulsen said.
“We’re going to rely on her a lot,” she said. “She’s a heck of an athlete. Her ceiling is really high.”
Add junior defensive specialist Natalee Hartman, and Marion returns five starters. Only one of the eight teams in the 2021 4A state field (Sioux City Heelan) returns more of its attack.
So expect the Wolves to be ranked extremely high — top three, at least — when the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union releases its preseason rankings in the next couple of weeks.
“The girls expect to do well,” Paulsen said. “It’s like every year, we want to win the conference. We want to go to state and go as far as we can.
“But we’ve got to stay healthy. Nothing is a guarantee.”
This team’s final destination is a mystery, and will remain so for weeks.
For now, it’s all about the journey. And the journals.