After a stellar year that saw its first state volleyball tournament in school history, Van Buren County leads the way in our All-Southeast Iowa Union small school volleyball selections. The Warriors were honored with three players and one coach on the first ever All-Union team.
Van Buren’s trifecta is joined by a couple from New London and WACO, two more squads who represented the area well all season.
It was one of the more difficult teams to pick after seeing an uptick in wins from many of the Union-area teams. The area saw three teams ranked at one point, with Winfield Mt. Union slipping into the top 15 before leading hitter Jenna Buffington went down with an injury. Three small schools were in the regional semifinals, two in the regional finals and one in the state quarterfinals.
Listed below are the selections for the 2019 All-Union small school volleyball team.
Coach: Matt Zeitler, Van Buren County: The head coach of the most decorated team in the Union coverage area this season went out on top. Zeitler, who will retire from coaching volleyball with this year in the rearview, led Van Buren to a 32-5 record, a SEISC South Division championship, a conference tournament finals appearance, and of course, a state qualifier banner.
Van Buren went into the state tournament having won 11 games in a row. The Warriors knocked out Cardinal, Pella Christian and Nodaway Valley en route to state and sent seven seniors out with the best year of their careers.
Captain: Selena Sayre, senior, Van Buren County: When Sayre started to heat up, the Warriors’ opponents weren’t safe. She finished the year with 502 kills, fourth best in the entire class.
Sayre had a .371 kill efficiency and a team-leading 5.16 kills per set. She was also one of the best servers on the squad, finishing the year with a .918 serve efficiency and 52 aces.
Hitter: Grace Davidson, senior, Van Buren County: The second-leading hitter on Van Buren’s roster was also one of their best all-around players. Davidson eclipsed 300 kills this year, finishing the season with 306. She also had 411 digs, which was second-most on the team.
On one of the best serving teams in Class 2A, Davidson was among the top in serve efficiency. She ended the year just a tick under .950. She also finished the season with 12 aces.
Hitter: Addie Pry, senior, New London: One of just two seniors on the New London volleyball team, Pry was a big reason why the Tigers made it all the way to the regional finals once again this season.
Pry led the New London with 335 kills on the year, coming in at 3.28 kills per set. She also had over 150 digs. At the service line, Pry had a .953 serve efficiency, and finished the year with 34 aces, tied for third-best on her team.
Setter: Laney Graber, senior, WACO: WACO advanced to the SEISC finals and made a long regional run thanks in part to having one of the best junior classes in Class 1A, but the Warriors’ one senior anchored the squad.
Graber finished the year with 736 assists, finishing eighth in the class with 8.36 assists per set. She gave her hitters plenty of help up front with 32 blocks, and even sprinkled in an impressive 213 digs and 81 kills, making her one of the best all-around players in the coverage area.
Libero: Isabel Manning, junior, Van Buren County: While most of the Van Buren volleyball starters cracked their teeth at state in their senior season, Manning was just a junior this year, meaning she’ll be leading the Warriors into the new era in 2020. On a team with plenty of talented hitters, Manning led the back line as the captain of the Van Buren defense.
Manning ended the season with 592 digs, the top mark in all of Class 2A and third in the entire state of Iowa. She ended the season with a ridiculous 6.14 digs per set. Manning was also clutch at the service line, finishing the year with a .938 serve efficiency and 37 aces.
Defensive specialist: Aubri Garnsey, junior, WACO: One of WACO’s most promising up-and-comers since she was just a freshman, Garnsey put up big numbers for the Warriors this year. The junior finished the season with 518 digs, fifth-best in Class 1A, and 5.98 digs per set, which was second in the class. She also had a .987 serve efficiency with 27 aces.
With just one senior being lost to graduation, WACO shows a boat lot of potential for next season, and a big part of that is Garnsey’s ability to keep the ball alive in the back row.
Defensive specialist: Kyra Linkin, junior, New London: When you think New London volleyball, you think great defense, and Linkin stepped up to the plate in 2019.
The Tiger junior finished the season with 527 digs, fourth-best in Class 1A. She had a .941 serve efficiency and ended the year with 30 aces. As she goes into her senior year next season, the Tigers should once again enter as one of the best volleyball teams in Southeast Iowa.
The 2019 All-Union small school volleyball team was selected by sports editors Andy Krutsinger and Doug Brenneman.