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Leopold: Depth, passing, fans lead charge in Class 1
When Leopold coach Sandy Davis watched the film of her team's sectional and state quarterfinal victories last Saturday, she realized something -- her hitters are hot.
"We watched the tape and we watched where the blocks were going and they had no idea a lot of the time because our hitters were so effective," Davis said. "They're playing well. They're hitting the ball well."
Leopold had 54 kills in the two wins over Bell City and Gideon. That offensive production helped the team earn a berth in the state volleyball tournament at the UCM Multipurpose Building in Warrensburg today and Saturday.
Leopold, a Class 1 program, will duel against Sacred Heart, Osceola and Winona.
The Wildcats will need to sustain their hard hitting to bring home the title. Players and coaches say the success has been a combination of depth, passing and a dash of school spirit.
This Wildcats team has a number of talented defensive and offensive players to rotate in and out of the lineup to keep players fresh.
Senior hitter Maddy Hutchings seemed to be the most energized player on the court last Saturday with 23 kills in the two matches. But she was still given three or four breaks during the final match.
Other players stepped up, such as Cassi Jansen, who had 15 kills, and Casey Bucher, who had 16.
"They're all good," Leopold setter Cassie Seiler said. "When she [Hutchings] leaves a game, we still have two big hitters in the front row who are fresh. So it's not really that big a deal."
Desiree Arnzen added: "Maddy is definitely a very big part of it. But when she goes out, we still have our defense, and our hitters are not as big, but some of them still really hit the ball hard and we're very good at placing it, too. Chelsea Broshuis, she hits from the outside and she's not as big as the rest of them, but she can place that ball better than any of them. We can get around the block."
Davis said the team picks up the defensive intensity when Hutchings takes a break. Davis rotates in a number of players, including April Nenninger, Chelsey Stoverink and Marissa VanGennip.
"You could put them in at defense and they'd all do well," Davis said.
Also, the depth increases when senior middle hitter Allison Bueter is factored into the mix. Bueter, who did not start Saturday because of back spasms, could see more action this weekend.
Passing and setting
Arnzen said as long as the defense passes to Seiler, the team will be in fine shape because Seiler places the ball exactly where her hitters can smash it for kills.
Seiler played a big role Saturday with 60 assists, and she is another reason the hitting game has come on in the past month.
Davis said her team participated in passing drill after passing drill at the beginning of the season because she believes the entire offense is centered on a crisp first pass. The coach added that the Wildcats have continued to work on different sets and hits after the pass to set up a speedier game tempo.
"Cassie is a smart setter and she can see where that hitter is, and they talk well and communicate well with each other," Davis said. "She runs the sets. The hitters have the confidence in her. They know she is going to set the ball."
And Seiler has the same level of confidence in her hitters.
"I know how pretty much everyone wants their set," Seiler said. "After playing together for so long you eventually learn what everybody is like.
"Me and [Bucher] I think have the best chemistry because we play opposite of each other. Whenever I pass a free ball, she comes up and hits because she's left-handed."
The players said much of their energy on the court comes from energy from the fans.
Davis said most everyone in town pushes for the team -- even people without daughters on the team attend matches.
"If you went to sectionals, you saw the support we had," she said. "We filled up like the whole side of the gym, and that's every game. When we were on the road to sectionals, people would line up on the road with signs telling us good luck and that they were thinking of us."
Arnzen said she and her teammates get pumped with the fan support. She said a group of male students, called "spirit leaders," attend each Leopold match and are especially adept at getting the crowd excited.
"The most we feed off is the spirit leaders," Arnzen said.
The spirit leaders wear anything, from wizard hats to Daisy Duke outfits to blue and white wigs to cat suits. They carry around a spirit goose named Edward and cheer for big kills.
Arnzen said she thinks a lot of people from the community will make the trip to Warrensburg.
"I guarantee there will be [many]," she said. "A lot of people want to go."