Spring Grove volleyball girls "keep it going" with 19 wins

AT LEFT: VaNessa Peterson attacks against a pair of blockers in the section quarterfinals at Harmony versus Fillmore Central. AT RIGHT: Kenadee Gerard (12), Paige Jahnke (3) and Addyson McHugh celebrate a point scored against Houston in the opening round of the sub-section tournament. It made four straight seasons with a postseason victory for Spring Grove. Photos by S. Lee Epps
S. Lee Epps

The Spring Grove girls did "keep it going," referring to their goal of extending a string of successful volleyball seasons. The Lion net program, under the direction of Kelsey Morken for the last five seasons, has proven to have a firm foundation with the just-concluded 19-win season.

Most area rivals and observers logically expected a significant drop-off after heavy graduation losses from last year's most successful squad in program history (27 wins, 4 losses). 

Spring Grove returned only one senior among three letter winners and two of the seven-player rotation from 2018.

Graduation had claimed 98% of last year's set assists, 94% of the blocks, 88% of the kills, 78% of the ace serves and 67% of the digs. 

Picking up diplomas were five of last year's six servers, the program's first All-State player, all three All-SEC selections and a three-year starting setter. 

True, the 2019 team did not match the previous record-setting, 27-win success. But with a 19-10 record, this fall's squad is one of only six Spring Grove volleyball teams (in 48 years) to have won as many as 19 matches, including the last three (2010, 2011, 2013, 2017, 2018, 2019). 

The Lions were just a couple of points shy of 20 wins with a late-season 3-2 setback against a strong-finishing Kingsland team, which won set five by the narrowest margin, 16-14. It was the only five-set match of the season for Spring Grove, which took two of three matches versus the Knights.

With a 10-4 league record, the Lion ladies finished in a tie for second place in the SEC East, a fourth straight runner-up finish to a perennial state-ranked neighbor. It was a fourth straight season with double-digit SEC wins and a fourth consecutive campaign with a playoff victory. The 2019 Lions were also the runner-up at the Mabel-Canton Labor Day Weekend Tournament.

Nine of the 10 Lion losses came against teams with winning records. Five of the 10 setbacks came against top 10, state-ranked teams - four versus 34-win Mabel-Canton and one against 25-win Caledonia. The Lions took two of three matches against 16-win Lanesboro, with whom they shared second place in the SEC East.

Two losses came against quality Iowa schools, 19-win Crestwood (Cresco) and 15-win MFL-Mar-Mac. 

With the No. 5 sub-section seed, Spring Grove dismissed No. 12 Houston before closing with a loss at No. 4 seed and 17-win Fillmore Central

Two quality wins came with a tie-breaking 1-1 tournament victory and a later 3-0 conference win over SEC West Division champion Grand Meadow, which won 22 matches (22-12) on the way to a fourth straight division title. It was one of only two SEC losses for the Superlarks (12-2 SEC).

Another highlight was Amelia Solum, the lone Lion senior, surpassing 1,000 career digs while the team won three of five matches at the Waukon Tournament.

There were early promising signs when players moving up from an 11-8 B-team joined the few returning veterans for a successful summer league season at Winona, where the Lions defeated four larger Class AA squads - Byron, St. Charles, Plainview-Elgin-Millville and Lewiston-Altura.

Looking ahead

Solum will surely be missed in 2020, but her legacy of leadership offers inspiration for continued success of an otherwise youthful roster.

The 2019 Lions most often used a young eight-player rotation that consisted of one senior, two juniors, two sophomores and three freshmen. A fourth freshman saw significant action in the final sub-section match.

The B-team posted an 8-7 record with the freshmen at 7-6. With an all-seventh grade lineup, Spring Grove had a 13-4 record against eighth grade competition. Playing the seventh grade schedule, the Lion sixth graders were 8-8.

Numbers are strong, and the program proved capable of maintaining a high level of play despite significant depletion via graduation.

Head coach Kelsey (Anderson) Morken, the 2003 Spring Grove Female Athlete of the Year, was assisted by Taylor Elton, the 2012 co-Female Athlete of the Year. The junior high program continues to be guided by 19-season veteran mentor Julianna Lile (SG Class of 1994).


Spring Grove volleyball 2019

19 win, 10 losses (10-4 SEC)


4-0 vs. Houston 2-0, 3-0, 3-1, 3-0

2-0 vs. Grand Meadow 1-1, 3-0

1-0 vs. Randolph 3-1

1-0 vs. Rushford-Peterson 2-0

1-0 vs. Schaeffer Academy 3-0

1-0 vs. Glenville-Emmons 3-0

1-0 vs. LeRoy-Ostrander 3-0

1-0 vs. De Soto (Wis.) 2-0

1-0 vs. North Crawford (Wis.) 2-0

1-0 vs. Lansing Kee (IA) 2-0

1-0 vs. Lyle/Pacelli 3-0

2-1 vs. Lanesboro 2-0, 3-0, 0-3

2-1 vs. Kingsland 2-0, 3-0, 2-3

0-1 vs. Crestwood (IA) 0-2

0-1 vs. MFL-Mar-Mac (IA) 1-2

0-1 vs. Caledonia 0-3

0-1 vs. Fillmore Central 0-3

0-4 vs. Mabel-Canton 0-2, 0-2, 0-3, 0-3