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No. 10 Tritons eager to get started

Photo by Paul DeCoursey The 2021 Iowa Central volleyball team includes, front row (left to right): Daejia Rodriguez, Emma Rissman, Darlynn Okinaka and Olivia Labbs. Middle: Natalia Kellerman, Taylor Ricke, De’Onna Douglas, Karli Eckert, Bailey Dugan, Molly McCauley, Alesha Johnson and Baylyn Johnson. Back: Anna Tague, Easton Swanson, Katilyn Steffes, Jaiden Zeis, Angel Baylark, Haley Alharithy, Kealey Anderson, Siela Avea and Devyn Scott.

The 10th-ranked Iowa Central volleyball team begins their quest for a three-peat several months later than expected this year.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NJCAA shifted the volleyball season to the winter and fall. For a program with three key returning players and a handful of others that saw the court last year, it was a transition that went as smoothly as it could.

“I think we knew fairly early in the summer that it was a possibility that our season would be altered,” Iowa Central head coach Sara Horn said. “Even though we didn’t find out for sure until right before the players moved back in (last July). Once we established a plan for what our new season was going to look like, the players have been outstanding in changing gears and rolling with the punches.

“They’ve really adjusted well all things considered.”

The Tritons feature returning All-American Kealey Anderson with fellow all-region players Haley Alharithy and Alesha Johnson.

Anderson recorded 556 kills with 522 digs, 59 blocks and 42 aces. She ranked in the Top-8 in the nation in both kills and points scored with 632.

Alharithy added 199 kills, 148 blocks and 45 digs with Johnson chipping in 340 digs, 44 kills, 28 blocks and 27 aces. Fellow classmate Darlynn Okinaka returns following a knee injury that limited her to six matches a year ago.

“The sophomores really knew what to expect as we essentially had the same schedule but in reverse from last year,” Horn said. “They did a great job of letting the freshmen know what was expected as we moved from one training cycle to the next.

“Working with Miguel Secor in the weight room and having some fall scrimmages really allowed the freshmen and sophomores to get a lot of training in before our season officially started, which was a huge benefit.”

St. Edmond graduate Devyn Scott is another returning sophomores after seeing action in two matches at the varsity level. Baylyn Johnson, an Algona native, also returns after playing in 15 matches with 39 digs.

Freshman Molly McCauley, a former Algona standout, is also on the roster for the Tritons this year.

Iowa Central begins its season Sunday at Kirkwood. First home action for the Tritons is set for Tuesday against Ellsworth.

IOWA CENTRAL VOLLEYBALL

Sophomores

Daejia Rodriguez, Laredo, Tex.; Devyn Scott, Fort Dodge; Baylyn Johnson, Algona; Haley Alharithy, Omaha; Karli Eckert, Omaha; Easton Swanson, Conrad; Kealey Anderson, Shenandoah; Taylor Ricke, Johnston; Alesha Johnson, Council Bluffs; Darlynn Okinaka, Hilo, Hi.

Freshmen

Emma Rissman, Crestwood; Molly McCauley, Algona; Angel Baylark, Burlington; Natalia Kellerman, Fargo, N.D.; Bailey Dugan, Wichita, Kan.; Jaiden Zeis, Fargo, N.D.; Katilyn Steffes, Rochester, Minn.; Siela Avea, Hau’ula, Hi.

Schedule

Jan. 24 — at Kirkwood; 26 — Ellsworth; 28 — Des Moines Area.

Feb. 2 — at Northeast; 4 — Iowa Lakes; 7 — at Southeastern; 9 — at Hawkeye; 11 — Southwestern; 16 — North Iowa Area; 18 — at Des Moines Area; 23 — Northeast; 24 — at Indian Hills; 28 — Kirkwood.

March 2 — at Iowa Lakes; 4 — at North Iowa Area; 7 — Hawkeye; 11 — Marshalltown; 15 — Iowa Western; 18 — at Ellsworth; 21 — Southeastern; 23 — at Southwestern.

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