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Senior-laden Cardinal volleyball sets high goals

Confidence and expectations are at a high level for the 2013 Newton Senior High volleyball team. And they should be.

Seven seniors return — five were starters — for the Cardinals, who went 22-15 in 2012. That was two shy of the NHS volleyball record for match victories. The Cardinals were second in the Little Hawkeye Conference behind Grinnell (25-11).

“This is IT. Let’s see what We Can Do.” is the Cardinals’ mantra for 2013. The senior-laden team is guided by longtime head coach Kim Florke. Florke announced this is her final season as NHS volleyball coach, after having teams amass a 239-240-22 record in 14 years as head coach.

“This is my 15th season as head coach here and 26th season overall. I just decided it was a good time to retire and go out with this group of seniors. Most of these girls will be three-or four-year starters for us,” Florke said.

Goals for 2013: win a conference title, break the 24-match victory school record and qualify for the Class 4A state tournament. Since the NHS volleyball program was established in 1992, no Cardinal team has made the state tournament. The program has had just three head coaches in that span.

“I told the girls on the first day of summer workouts that the 24-match record needs to go down and they agreed. Our conference is tough. Pella Christian is a traditional powerhouse in Class 2A. Pella is always good and Grinnell is tough to beat because they keep the ball in play,” Florke said.

Seniors returning to the court for the Cardinals are Michaela Bleeker, Holly Vander Pol, Jennifer Ventling, Amber Karsten, Baily Beaderstadt, Kacy Cazett and Sydney Bergman. They will be joined on the varsity by freshman Megan Pressgrove.

“We have a great team chemistry. These seniors worked well as a group and get along well on and off the court. It’s going to be an exciting season and fun to watch this team play,” Florke said.

Bleeker is a 6-foot outside hitter, who was second in Class 4A in kills (428). Bleeker is a four-year starter who earned Class 4A All-State honorable mention and was a first-team All-Little Hawkeye Conference selection. She led Newton in defensive digs with 323 and service aces with 58. She had six solo blocks at the net and 16 assisted blocks.

“Michaela has put in the time in the off-season and this is her year to really show how good she is. She had a great season last year and we expect more this year,” Florke said. Bleeker was a Class 4A All-Southeast District first-team selection.

Vander Pol is Newton’s other seasoned outside hitter as a three-year starter. The 5-7 senior put down 165 kills at the net. She also served at a 95-percent clip and had 56 service aces. Vander Pol earned LHC honorable mention.

Working as the right-side hitter is Karsten, who is 5-7 and had 77 kills and nine assisted blocks at the net. Defensively, Karsten came up with 276 digs. She served 26 aces.

“Amber is a very good athelte and we’re looking for her to step up and be more offensive this season. Holly just does things right out there. She gets to the right spot and is a strong hitter at the net,” Florke said.

Florke said Ventling is the most improved player on the team from last season. She said the 5-10 middle blocker had a good summer of work to improve her game. Ventling, who was a LHC honorable mention selection, delivered 123 kills last year and had four solo blocks along with 26 assisted blocks. She served up 22 aces.

Beaderstadt is a two-year starter as a 5-9 middle blocker. She rang up eight solo blocks and 28 assisted blocks a year ago and had 52 kills. She was a 93-percent server with 22 ace serves.

The 5-2 Cazett is the defensive specialist for the Cardinals playing the libero position in the back row. She averaged 2.52 digs per set last year, which amount to 249 digs for the season.

“Kacy was trained as a setter but we put in the libero spot last year. She gained a lot of confidence playing the back row. She is quick and gets to the ball plus passes the ball well,” Florke said.

The one big void the Cardinals had to fill was at setter. Newton lost All-Conference second-team and two-year starter Katelyn Camp.

“Sydney Bergman, who is 5-2, will be our back-row setter. She is a great leader and great competitor. Then we have freshman Megan Pressgrove, who will be our front-row setter. Megan is a left-hander and is an outstanding hitter also,” Florke said.

Florke said the Cardinals need to stay healthy because they don’t have much depth this season.

“We’re excited to get going and see what we can do. We had a good summer of work and are ready to play matches,” she said.

The Cardinals open the 2013 season at home Aug. 27. It is the Cardinal Varsity Volleyball Invitational featuring Newton, Lynnville-Sully, Oskaloosa, ADM, Dowling Catholic and Carlisle.

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