PREVIEW: Three starters return for close-knit Wildcat squad


     What the Maquoketa Valley High School volleyball team lost in experience due to graduation last year, it hopes to make up for with its size, hustle and camaraderie.

     Three starters, among six returning letter-winners, are back with the Wildcat team this season after going 15-13 overall and finishing fourth in the Tri-Rivers Conference last year.

     It’s a team that has worked well together, according to third-year coach Brandy Whittenbaugh.

     “This team lost a lot of key starters from last year, but the group coming back have played together and know each other very well from prior years,” Whittenbaugh said. “They are a close-knit group, and although we lost powerful hitters, this team is very athletic and will make hustle plays.”

     Two all-conference players are back; 5-foot-10 junior outside hitter Emerson Whittenbaugh, who made the first team and was also selected all-district; and junior libero Ella Imler, who made the second team. Lydia Helle, a 6-0 outside hitter, also is back in the starting lineup.

     Other returning letter-winners are senior defensive specialist Ali Knipper, junior hitter Taya Tucker, and junior hitter/defensive specialist Payton Beaman. Sophomore setter Carissa Sabers is a newcomer who has looked promising in practice.

     “We have really good leaders in this group,” coach Whittenbaugh said.

     Lisbon, Edgewood-Colesburg and East Buchanan are teams Whittenbaugh listed among MV’s toughest conference foes this year.

     “The conference race is up for grabs, as I feel there is a lot of talent coming back, but most teams lost a lot of experience from last year,” the coach said.

     She is assisted by Melissa Dutra.



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