Tritons finish best run in program history

Tritons finish best run in program history

The Iowa Central volleyball team put the finishing cap on the most productive run in program history recently.

Four consecutive ICCAC Div. II regular season titles, two Region XI Tournament championships, a third place finish at the NJCAA Div. II Championships and a fourth place nationals banner were all achieved by the Tritons on the court. 

Third-year sophomores Devyn Scott, Baylyn Johnson, Haley Alharithy and Alesha Johnson were there for it all along with sophomores Emma Rissman, Siela Avea, Angel Baylark, Natalia Kellerman, Bailey Dugan, Jaiden Zeis, Katilyn Steffes and Bria Sandifer.

Iowa Central brought in freshmen Kira Matthias, Deni McDaniel, Baylee Greene, Michaelah Petrowiak, Aaliyah Lobendahn, Brooke Dobson, Jalyn Simon, Jori Hajek, Chloe Hicks, Brooke Hansen, Kylie McVey and Kiana Touney this past year to help begin the process of keeping the tradition going. 

"We are losing not one but two classes this season, as we say goodbye to both our sophomores and our super sophomores," Iowa Central head coach Sara Horn said. "The sophomores leave here with a 64-7 record, two conference and two regional championships, and two national tournament appearances. The super sophomores leave here with a 97-13 record, three conference titles, two regional championships, and two national tournament appearances. 

"They each battled through an extremely hard COVID year and came out the other side with a No. 1 national ranking for the first time in school history. We will of course remember their successes on the floor, but more than that we will miss their determination, their work ethic, their fun personalities, and just who they are as people and teammates. 

"Every year it is hard saying goodbye to our sophomores, but this one hurts almost twice as bad, and we will miss these 13 members of our Triton Family, but we look forward to seeing their continued success in their futures." 

During the run, Alesha Johnson was twice named the ICCAC Div. II Player of the Year, a first in the storied conference. Horn earned coach of the year honors with both Baylark and Dobson picking up the top freshman award. 

Steffes and Baylark each made the national all-tournament team with Johnson and Alharithy earning All-American honors. 

Iowa Central went 97-13 overall and won 43 of 47 matches inside Hodges Fieldhouse. 

Baylark ranks second in career hitting efficiency, fifth in career blocks, fifth in single-season hitting efficiency and eighth in single-season blocks. She is also ninth in blocks per game. 

"Players like Angel only come once in a coach's career," Horn said. "She's a very special kind of athlete who works hard 100 percent of the time. The combination of her athleticism, work ethic, her coachability, desire to learn and improve, the support she gives her teammates and her natural instincts for the game just aren't a combination that you see very often, if at all.  She has set the bar extremely high for players to come. 

"Combine this with Angel's infectious personality and kind heart, and we are losing an incredible player and person, but we are extremely happy that we had the chance to have Angel in this program." 

Alesha Johnson is second in all-time assists and second and eighth in single-season assists. She also set the single-match assists record with 70 earlier this year and sits third and fourth in assists per game. 

"It is definitely a junior college coach's dream to have a three-year starter at the setter position," Horn said. "Alesha came in her freshman year a bit unsure of her own abilities, so to see her confidence emerge and for her to become the first back-to-back ICCAC Volleyball Player of the Year ever is something I will forever be proud of her for.

"Alesha has worked so hard for all of her and her team's successes, both in season, out of season, and at home, and she deserves all of the success that she's had. The setter position is always a hard position to replace, but Alesha will be irreplaceable, both as a player, a captain and as a person."

Alharithy is third in career blocks, fifth in career hitting efficiency and ninth in single-season blocks. 

"Haley is one of two three-year starters and I don't think I could have picked a better person to have on the floor, leading our net defense for the past three years," Horn said. "Haley brought in a wealth of club experience and a really deep love for this game. Haley might be the biggest volleyball fan I've coached and I always appreciate people who love this game as much as I do. 

"Haley's knowledge and experience of the game have helped this team's defense be one of the best in the nation and we are definitely going to miss her presence both on, and off of, the court next season."   

Baylyn Johnson is sixth on the career digs list and also ranks sixth in single-season digs. She is also 10th in digs per game.

"The combination of Baylyn's quickness and her ability to throw her body behind a hard hit gave a lot of teams trouble this season," Horn said. "She covers so much court out there and always wants to know what she can do better and how she can improve. 

"I've always appreciated Baylyn's directness in wanting critique and we've absolutely loved having her here for three years.  This extra year of eligibility and getting to keep our super sophomores for an extra year is something we'll always be thankful for." 

Steffes is ninth in single-season kills, 10th in single-season attacks and second in kills per game. 

"Katilyn is a player that is just starting to scratch her potential," Horn said. "I am happy for her that she gets an extra year of eligibility (due to COVID) because she improved so much over the past year and a half and she shows glimpses of a whole 'nother level of play.  

"Katilyn knows how to work hard on the court and is an extremely tough person who knows how to push herself.  I think KT is a star in the making, and I am really excited to see where she ends up in a couple of years on the court." 

Sandifer is eighth in single-season aces and 10th in service aces per game. 

"Bria is another player who can play multiple positions and is as selfless as they come," Horn said. "She was a big reason for our success this year because she gave us so many problems on the other side of the net either with her crazy serve, her setting or her defensive play.

"Bria came in as a transfer to a really established team, but she never let that be an excuse and was always the best teammate, a really hard worker and just an awesome person to be around every day."

Dugan had 409 digs this past season and 41 aces, finishing with 524 and 53 in her career. 

"Bailey is the definition of a utility player and she really embraced the role of playing whichever position the team needed her to play," Horn said. "In the past two years, she has started at front row right side, back row right side, libero, middle back, and outside hitter. Bailey can literally do it all on the court and she is a total team player who is always selfless both on and off the court. 

"Bailey is one of those players that coaches absolutely love having, because she is always doing what she's supposed to be doing, on the court, in the classroom, and on the weekends. Bailey hasn't decided what she wants to do for a career, but watch out world, because Bailey is someone that everyone should want in their organization because she will do everything in her power to make wherever she is a better place."