Roland-Story volleyball team exceeds expectations in 2021: Norse repeat as HOIC champions

Joe Randleman
Ames Tribune
Roland-Story's do-it-all setter Madison Geise was named all-state honorable mention in Class 3A by the IGCA in 2021.

The Roland-Story volleyball program rolled to another Heart of Iowa Conference championship and hit 29 wins for the fourth time in five years in 2021.

Led by seniors Madison Geise and Reagan Barkema, Roland-Story finished 29-8 overall and ranked 12th in Class 3A. The Norse repeated as HOIC champions, going a perfect 7-0 on the season.

Roland-Story pulled off those feats despite needing to replace seven seniors who made big contributions during last year's 23-8 run.

The Norse saw their dreams of a trip to the state tournament dashed in the 3A regional semifinals by old nemesis Nevada. But it didn't take away from another tremendous run by a program that has gone 139-46 over the past five seasons.

"When we started the season none of us were sure what the year would look like," Roland-Story head coach Molly Geise said. "We never thought it would be 29-8 with a conference title and beating five ranked teams, including our first ever program win against perennial power Kuemper Catholic. This team exceeded my expectations and we had fun while doing it too."

Roland-Story opened the season by sweeping Webster City, Central Springs and South Hamilton at its home quadrangular meet. The Norse lost to No. 6 (2A) Denver and No. 12 (1A) North Tama at the Meskwaki Invitational, but also defeated Meskwaki, No. 6 (1A) Ankeny Christian Academy and Vinton-Shellsburg at the tournament.

The Norse swept Prairie City-Monroe and Greene County in their first two HOIC matches. They split with North Polk and Gilbert, losing to the Comets and defeating the Tigers, at a triangular in Alleman Sept 14 and two days later they earned their biggest conference win by winning a five-set thriller at Nevada.

"Winning the conference game against Nevada was a highlight," Molly Geise said. "It was a tight match and some of the kids had not competed in anything that big. It is fun to see them rise to the occasion and handle the pressure."

Roland-Story defeated Forest City and Saint Ansgar and earned another win over both Central Springs and Webster City at the Forest City Invitational Sept. 18. The only Norse loss during the tournament came at the hands of Clarion-Goldfield-Dows.

"Our kids started to believe we were going to be better than we originally thought," Molly Geise said. "The Forest City tournament showed us we had the ability to beat anyone, but if we didn't show up to play we could easily get beaten."  

On Sept. 21 Roland-Story swept Perry on the road for a HOIC victory. Six days later the Norse bested Newton and Marshalltown and fell to No. 10 (2A) South Hardin at the Norsemen Invitational.

The Norse swept Saydel on the road Sept. 28 then opened October by sweeping South Hamilton for two more conference victories. Roland-Story downed Grand View Christian, Iowa Falls-Alden, No. 11 (2A) Kuemper Catholic and Ames and fell to No. 15 (3A) Independence at the Hampton-Dumont Invite Oct. 9.

Roland-Story wrapped up its second perfect run through the HOIC in a row Oct. 14 by defeating the Trojans in four sets on senior night at Story City. The Norse ended the regular season by going 4-1 at the Woodward-Granger Invitational with wins over Woodward-Granger, ACGC and Grand View Christian and splitting two matches with No. 8 (4A) Bondurant-Farrar.

The postseason began with Roland-Story dominating Saydel in the 3A regional quarterfinals. The Norse swept the Eagles by scores of 25-9, 25-12 and 25-14.

That set up a rematch with Nevada in the regional quarterfinals at Story City Oct. 20. The Norse had a great start with a 25-14 victory in the opening set, then went flat in losing the next three by scores of 25-18, 25-18 and 25-21 to end the season.

Madison Geise, Barkema, right-side hitter Reagan Faber and libero Ally Ringsby were the only players with extensive varsity experience off last year's team.

"Madison was our only returning six-rotation player," Molly Geise said. "Barkema and Faber were returning, but they only played three rotations and Ally Ringsby filled in for a hurt player at the end of last season.  With Covid last year we were not mixing teams like we normally like to do in practice, so the rest of the players besides those four had never practiced at a varsity level.  But those experienced players were so welcoming to the younger players that it allowed them to grow fearlessly. That helped as we were coaching those kids like crazy, but they never seemed to let it overwhelm them.  They wanted to succeed for their team who was so fun to play with."

Roland-Story tallied 979 kills on an excellent 21.2 % kill-efficiency rate. The Norse had 1,441 digs and 157 blocks in 95 sets and served at a 90 % clip with 225 aces.

Madison Geise ran the show at setter.

Geise had 623 assists, 262 digs, 235 kills, 59 aces and 23 blocks in 94 sets during the season. She finished as the school's all-time leader in assists (2,688) and aces (194) and ranks fourth all-time in digs (861) and seventh in kills (617).

Barkema was a force at middle blocker. 

Barkema recorded 314 kills on 26.9 % efficiency and added 202 digs, 50 blocks and 33 aces. She ranks sixth all-time in kills at Roland-Story with 619 is also 11th in both blocks and aces.

Faber tallied 216 digs, 128 kills, 29 blocks and 22 aces. Ringsby finished with 317 digs, 100 assists and 21 aces on a team-best 94 % serving rate.

Sophomore Grace Dowling stepped up with 129 kills, 65 digs and 14 blocks at outside hitter. Freshman Kamryn Lande had 83 digs, 65 kills, 30 aces and 11 blocks.

Outside hitter Grace Dowling was one of several sophomores to step up and make valuable contributions to the Roland-Story volleyball team this season.

Sophomore Ali Charlson was strong in the back row with 178 digs and she also picked up 26 aces. Sophomore Madelyn Risdal played in 62 sets and had 44 kills and 14 blocks and senior Victoria Olson contributed 27 kills in 40 sets.

Jacyln Gessner ended up with 29 digs and 11 aces in 44 sets during her sophomore year.  Senior Addison Mohr finished with 33 digs and 11 aces in 37 sets and senior Mersadie Franklin 24 digs and seven aces.

Losing Madison Geise, Barkema, Ringsby, Mohr, Olson and Franklin won't be easy.

The seniors were part of teams that won 111 games and only lost 35.

"They showed the younger players what it takes to be a good team," Molly Geise said. "There is no "I" in team and this group of seniors exemplified that. They led in different ways, but they all are very passionate and able to inspire others around them."

Next season will likely be a rebuilding season. But the Norse don't plan on suffering too big of a drop off as they look to put up another winning season and remain in contention for their third HOIC title in a row.

"We have a ton of experience back for next season and lots of potential from the JV and freshman teams," Molly Geise said. "I am excited to see the growth of each player and see them mold into a team.  The foundation is there for these girls to step up and succeed."