By: The Messenger Sports Reporter Chris Johnson
The Iowa Central volleyball squad had a breakout season last year.
The Tritons burst on to the national stage and finished 10th in the 16-team tournament, compiling a 32-11 and winning a regional title.
Sophomore Gabby Sullivan, who was the first in Iowa Central history to be named a first team All-American, rewrote the Triton record books.
Sullivan led the nation in total attacks with 1,886 and placed second in kills with 682. She averaged almost 4.5 kills per set, which ranked fourth.
She set new high-water marks for most attacks and kills in a season, along with the most attacks (106) and kills (43) in a single match.
Triton head coach Sara Horn, who returns for her sixth season, knows it will be hard to fill the void left by Sullivan. With 16 sophomores — including six starters — back, the Tritons are ready to reload.
"I think Gabby, as well as our other sophomores last season, did such a great job with leadership," Horn said. "Their production on the court isn't something you can replicate, but the way they led this team is something our sophomores this year can take and make it their own. We have a lot more experience this year versus last year, so our goal is definitely not to replace our kill leader and our dig leader with individuals, but to better our total numbers as a team.
"Every year is a completely different bunch, and it's been a lot of fun to see this team and this group come into their own and establish their brand and their personality as a team."
The Tritons are already serving notice in the national rankings, as they enter the season No. 9 in the NJCAA Division II poll.
Horn has three all-region picks returning in Abby Lohrmann (setter), Kayla Faldet (middle) and Libby Zorn (outside). Also back to the starting lineup is Asarar Gony (MB), Kryssie Okinaka (DS) and Hannah Murray (DS).
"Last year, we had a very young team overall," Horn said. "We had five sophomores and 22 freshmen, so our freshmen got to see and learn a lot with our successes and challenges.
"With 16 returners, we have more experience than anyone in any of the two-year divisions. Our returners had a great experience their freshman year and they are hungry to accomplish even more."
Lohrman had 1,462 assists and 478 digs for the Tritons. Faldet tallied 242 kills, 78 digs and 152 blocks. Zorn recorded 315 kills, 96 digs and 88 blocks for Iowa Central.
Gony registered 119 kills and 50 blocks, Okinaka had 548 digs, and Murray had 132 kills, 419 digs and 43 blocks.
Horn will have a small group of freshmen to lean on and fill the void.
"We have nine freshmen on the team," Horn said. "Amaya Finley, a very dynamic Gabby-like outside hitter from Stockton, Calif. Karol Santos, an all-around pin hitter from Brazil and Taylor Bienemann, a lightning-fast freshman from Waverly, have stood out early."
With the returning players and the success from last season, the Tritons are one of the top three teams in the division, including perennial powers Kirkwood and DMACC.
"Kirkwood and DMACC reload their teams every single year, so they will be early favorites," Horn said. "Northeast has been to nationals the last two seasons, and they always have a lot of talent from Northeast Nebraska.
"Iowa Lakes and NIACC look to be stronger this year with experienced coaches, while Hawkeye, Southeastern, Southwestern and Ellsworth all have new coaches so we'll have to adjust to a new team with new systems."
Iowa Central opens the season on Wednesday at Illinois Central.
Aug. 22 — at Illinois Central, 5 p.m.; 24-25 — at Sugar Grove, IL; 29 — Iowa Lakes, 7 p.m.; 31 — at Highland tournament.
Sept. 1 — at Highland, KS tournament; 5 — Southwestern, 7 p.m.; 7 — at Rochester, MN tournament; 12 — Hawkeye Community College, 7 p.m.; 14-15– at Wahpeton, ND tournament; 19 — at Ellsworth, 7 p.m.; 21 — at Kansas City tournament; 26 — Northeast Community College, 7 p.m.; 28-29– at Arkansas City, Kansas tournament.
Oct. 3 — at Southeastern, 7 p.m.; 5 — at Boone (DMACC tournament); 10 — Kirkwood, 7 p.m.; 12-13 — Iowa Central Invitational; 17 — at NIACC, 7 p.m.; 24 — DMACC, 7 p.m.
Skylar Morrison, Cowden, IL; Brenda Hopkins, Harlan; Hannah Murray, Ankeny; Emily Tufts, Bondurant; Abby Lohrmann, Carroll; Maddy Punsalan, Urbandale; Sydney Oliver, Mason City; Fernanda Orsi, Belo Horizonte; Kryssie Okinaka, HI; Makenna Hemmen, Waterloo, IA; Stevie Fremouw, Park Forest, IL; Bhana Gony, Omaha, NE; Asarar Gony, Omaha, NE; Kayla Faldet, Osseso, WI; Libby Zorn, Billings, MT.
Delaney Spinks, Sparks, NV: Taylor Bienemann, Waverly; Shay Karmazyn, Aurora, CO; Amaya Finley, Stockton, CA; Olivia Wilson, Omaha, NE: Sydni George, Omaha, NE; Darlynn Okinaka, Hilo, HI; Taylor Light, Meridian, ID; Karolayne Santos, Betim, Brazil; Katie Godfredsen, Urbandale.