With five starters back from the previous year, Ottawa High volleyball coach Jodi Grover knew her Cyclones were on the brink of a special season in 2001.
The Cyclones didn't disappoint, finishing with a 29-13 record, capturing the Huron League title and qualifying for state for the first time since 1996.
"It made a big difference on how quickly we could progress through the season," said Grover, the Journal-World's area coach of the year. "All five returners took charge of the season with their belief in each other and their determination to reach their goals of league champs and sub-state champs. I could tell in the season when all 10 members of the varsity squad started believing in each other and trusting each other. Their chemistry was there."
Incidentally, the Cyclones dominated the Journal-World's all-area volleyball team. Ottawa seniors Adrienne Allegre and Tracy Seeger were selected to the team.
Baldwin's Emily Brown, Wellsville's Jessica Clay and Tonganoxie's Aimee Eismann and Eudora's Lauren Kracl completed the area team.
Here are capsules on the J-W's all-area team:
A 5-foot-6 hitter and two-year starter, Allegre finished with 272 kills, 91 percent serve receive and had 307 digs. She played in all 91 of Ottawa's games.
"She was the most stable player on the floor from front to back row and with her leadership on the floor," Grover said. "Her all-around talent kept the momentum of games going."
Brown, one of two repeat all-area selections and an All-Frontier League pick, led the Bulldogs in kills with 323 and had a hitting efficiency of .293.
The 6-1 hitter also had 65 blocks and 214 assists. She was named to the all-tournament team at DeSoto.
"She was definitely the one we needed to get the ball to," BHS coach Jill Brown said.
"She played all the way around and she was able to set from back row. She was much more comfortable this year. When she was hitting, she was hard to stop. She was a lot more aggressive."
Clay, a 5-9 middle hitter, had 265 kills and 138 stuff blocks to lead Wellsville to a fourth-place finish at the Class 3A state tournament. Clay was an All-Frontier League selection.
"Jessica's hard work and mental toughness were certainly a big part of our success," WHS coach John Dowling said. "Jessica seemed to have her best matches against some of our tougher opponents."
A repeat selection, Eisman, a 5-8 outside hitter, had 413 kills and was an All-Kaw Valley pick for Tonganoxie.
"She was our go-to player," THS coach Tiffany Parker said. "She was an exciting player to watch. Every time we gave her the ball in the heat of the battle, she would put it away. We relied a lot on her leadership and athletic ability."
Kracl, a 6-foot hitter, was an All-Frontier League performer for the Cardinals. She had 241 kills and 72 blocks to lead Eudora. Kracl also had 36 aces and was named to Perry-Lecompton's all-tournament team.
"She was a big part of our offense," EHS coach Jill Stuttler said. "She was one of our top passers as well as servers. She was one of the strongest all-around players we had."
Seeger, a 5-5 setter, helped fuel the Cyclones' attack with 780 assists. She had a 92.7 percent serve efficiency and 311 digs while playing in all 91 OHS games.
"Tracy's knowledge and love of the game helped lead the squad to a successful season," Grover said. "She was able to mix the sets and plays up so that we would keep the other teams on the defensive most of the time. She was a true team player."