Coming off an 18-17 overall record and with a solid number of starters returning, expectations that Perry would produce another winning season were not unrealistic.
Unfortunately, such was not to be, as a six-match slump in the middle of the season followed two three-match skids early in the year to derail such hopes and send the Jayettes spinning to a 12-23 mark, which included an 0-7 trip through the Raccoon River Conference. Perry is now 2-19 the past three years in RRC play.
It might be worth remembering that the Perry volleyball was 7-31, 0-7, in the 2013 season, so the jump to 18-17 may have raised hopes a bit high, but second-year head coach Kristel Schultz said a lack of discipline, particularly on defense, was the main cause of Perry’s troubles this fall.
The 2015 team played only two sets (91) fewer than the 2014 team but saw the number of kills fall from 844 to 651 while, crucially, kill efficiency dropped from .226 to .151. Blocks dropped from 160 to 95 and digs from 957 to 706.
“We need to polish our serve-receive before next season, which is something that needs to be done in the weeks before the season, not after it starts,” Schultz said. “We were having to spend way too much practice time on serve-receive and passing, time that could have been spent working on other areas.”
Misfortune played a role as well, as nagging injuries bothered some players while the team — just when Schultz thought the squad was coming together — lost Grace Marburger for the season to a wrist injury.
“I give props to the girls who played hurt,” Schultz said. “But there is a difference between being hurt and being injured and you cannot prepare for that. I felt we finally had our ace lineup set, had finally settled on a strong rotation, and then we lost Grace toward the end of the season, which you never want to have happen.”
Schultz said she was pleased with how several Jayettes adjusted to increased responsibility on the court.
“We do have girls who are committed,” she remarked. “We had some players who stepped up to the pressure of playing at the varsity level and as a coach you are always happy to see that.”
Schultz said she hoped off-court distractions that plagued the team could be avoided in the future and expressed her wish that the returning players for next season would “keep their hands on a volleyball.”
A multi-sport athlete at Perry, Schultz said she understood that “Perry seems to always focus on basketball and softball and volleyball tends to be an afterthought.”
“I don’t want the girls to not play those sports, but it would be nice if volleyball could have the same level of off-season attention the other sports seem to draw,” she said. “I played them all and had a lot of fun, but I loved volleyball the best, so obviously I would like to see that (from some of our girls).”
Four regulars bow out this year: Ellie Nielsen, Victoria Hegstrom, Taylor Lathrum and libero player Mariah Duffy. Sara Weir was also a senior on the squad.
Nielsen led the team in kills with 196, with sophomore Jo Diw adding 154, Hegstrom 88 and junior Grace Marburger 86. Lathrum had 75 kills and junior Adrian Thompson 44. Sophomore Sid Vancil distributed 453 assists while Nielsen added 53.
Nielsen had a team-best 164 digs, with Diw making 116, Duffy 105 and Marburger and Vancil 89 apiece. Lathrum’s 35 blocks led the squad, with Hegstrom and Diw each tallying 18 rejections.
Vancil served 277-of-288 (.962) with 30 aces and Marburger 160-of-171 (.936) with 12 aces to stand as the only Jayettes serving at a 90 percent or higher success rate. Diw was 282-333-56, Nielsen 211-238-27, Lathrum 197-222-11 and Hegstrom 166-195-19 behind the line.
“It can be easy to look at the things that didn’t go right and forget that there was a lot that did,” Schultz said. “As I said before, we do have girls who are committed and we will have some players back with experience and I would rather focus on that.”