Hesston Volleyball enters 2019 loaded again

Teammates watch as Hesston Lady Swather #5 Elise Kaiser prepares to hit the ball. The teams of the Central Kansas League gathered for the League Preseason Volleyball Tournament held at Hesston High School in Hesston, Kansas on August 31, 2019. (Photo: Joey Bahr, www.joeybahr.com)
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Hesston volleyball has reached state every year from ’14-18. After a state qualifying appearance in ’14, the Swathers have finished third, second, third and fourth at state in the last four seasons. Hesston has lost to the eventual state champion – Garden Plain, Silver Lake, TMP, and Silver Lake – in the semifinals or finals each year.

The Swathers have annually produced some of the state’s top athletes. Kailey Jo Ince was Class 3A Player of the Year in ’16-17 and started 17 matches as a true freshman for NCAA Division I University of Northern Colorado last year. Through the first three matches this fall, Jo Ince is second with 41 kills, eight behind Taylor Muff, a Concordia High graduate.

Setter Alaina Dunlavy graduated in ’18 and signed with Washburn volleyball. Jessanna Nebel played at Hesston College and Tabor College.

In basketball, Cami Richardson played basketball at McPherson. Her sister, Caylee, achieved great success at Southwest Baptist (Mo.) University with more than 1,000 career points in the MIAA. She earned some sort of all-league recognition all four years in college before finishing her career last winter. The Richardsons, Dunlavy and Ince were all first team all-state volleyball selections at least once.

This season, Hesston has nine seniors for coach Jason Peters, according to the team’s MaxPreps roster. He is in his 15th season as head coach and 18th with the program. Peters carried a 368-161 record into 2019. He said the Swathers’ talent has come from upperclassmen and seniors in previous years.

“Setting the tone,” he said.

This year, Hesston’s talented group opened fourth in Class 3A. Since ’13, Hesston is 32-7, 36-5, 32-12, 38-7, 40-5 and 32-10. Three separate times Hesston has broken the school mark for victories in that stretch. The Swathers have never won a championship but have taken second four times, including ’92, ’94 and ’96.

“Mr. Peters he is literally the best coach,” senior Elise Kaiser said.

Kaiser, a Newman University basketball signee, set the school mark for single season digs (469) and digs per set (4.51) last year. She delivered 181 kills.

“Works incredibly hard in just whatever she does,” Peters said. “Basketball is kind of her main thing that she is going to college for. But it doesn’t matter what the sport is.”

A former libero, Kaiser is 5-foot-10.

“She is definitely very quick and anticipates very well,” Peters said.

Senior six-foot outside hitter Talby Duerksen is a returning Class 3A first team all-state selection who had 421 kills, along with 269 digs and 55 aces. Kaiser earned first team all-league.

“All the girls in volleyball, basketball and track, we just get along really well,” Kaiser said. “And so I think when a team gets along really well you can go far and achieve a lot of great things.”

Senior setter Celbi Richardson, Caylee and Cami’s sister, was second team all-league last fall with 569 assists.

“A lot of returning players with some experience,” Peters said.

Additionally, defensive specialists Hailey Waltner, Emily Koehn, and Kaitlin Carter, middle hitter/right side Shelby Clark, middle/right side Lindsey Deegan, and setter Olivia Lais are also seniors.

Kaiser, Duerksen, Koehn and Richardson have been a close quartet.

Junior middle/outside Alex Martin and sophomore setter/right side Harley Ferralez are key returners. Host Hesston opened 4-2 with a second place finish in the season-opening Central Kansas League tournament last week. The Swathers lost twice to Nickerson, ranked seventh in 4A. It marked the first time Nickerson had captured the CKL preseason tournament.

Duerksen and Kaiser finished first and second with 49 and 30 kills. Ferralez served 17 aces, while Celbi had 12. Deegan led with seven blocks. Kaiser had 60 digs for 4.6 per set, on last year’s pace.

“We have been super close, that core four group, so I feel like we can definitely be the leaders that our team needs to hopefully achieve what we want to achieve at the end of this season,” Kaiser said.