Monday, Oct. 30, marked the last regular season home volleyball game for a group of five Panther sophomores. Ellsworth Community College took time before the matchup against Marshalltown Community College to acknowledge Ashley Kraber, Myriana Martinez, Haley Steele, Nicole Neilsen and Allison Sheridan.
Ashley Kraber is one of three sophomore captains who led the team this year. Kraber played through many injuries over the last two years and is the only sophomore who has played in all 231 sets over the past two volleyball seasons. She will graduate in May with her AA in Accounting and plants to continue her education at Grandview or UNI. Over the past two seasons with the Panthers, Kraber has accumulated 1,319 assists, 696 digs, 64 kills, 45 service aces and 18 blocks. She now holds the second place spot in the ECC volleyball recordbooks for total career assists (and still has one match yet to play). She is currently ranked in the conference top 16 for total digs in the 2017 season, when she improved her digging average from 2.31 digs/set in 2016 to 3.71 digs per set in 2017. ECC Head Coach Ashley Clark commented, "Ashley has done a great job buying in to what I've taught her and applying the things she has learned while here at ECC. She filled some very big shoes over the last two years and I'm very proud of what she has accomplished both on and off the court."
Myriana Martinez is one of four sophomores who have played at Ellsworth the past two years. She has been dedicated to everything she is involved with while in Iowa Falls and has successfully balanced the student-athlete life in addition to working part-time. Martinez plans to continue attending Ellsworth's Equine program through fall of 2018, then she will transfer to a four-year university where she hopes to continue playing volleyball and pursing her education. Over the past two seasons with the Panthers, Martinez has accumulated 893 digs, 72 kills, 47 service aces, and 41 assists. Myriana now holds the third place spot in the ECC volleyball recordbooks for total career digs (and still has one match yet left to play). She currently holds the number one spot in the conference for 648 total digs and 5.59 digs/set this season, in addition to being ranked number 9 in service aces/set. Coach Clark had this to say about Martinez, "I saw great potential in Myriana from day one, but it wasn't until spring 2017 in which she really started to evolve into the player and libero she is today. Myriana is one of the most organized and driven young people that I have met. I'm very lucky to have had the opportunity to coach her and help her along this journey."
Haley Steele came to Ellsworth last year to play softball, but decided that she missed volleyball and wanted to join the team this year. Steele will graduate in May with her AA in Elementary Education and continue her education at University of Minnesota – Morris. While playing volleyball this year, she has accumulated 16 service aces and 406 total digs, which averages to 3.5 digs/set. She is also ranked in the conference top 16 for total digs this season. Coach Clark says "Haley has been a tremendous addition to our team this year! She is courageous with a spunky personality, always drives energy with her celebrations, and always goes 100% for the ball in both practices and games. We will miss her in the back row and also from the service line."
Nicole Nielsen is the second sophomore captain and has also been floor captain this year. She spent the last two seasons leading the Panthers in attacking attempts and total kills. Nielsen will graduate in May with her AA in Liberal Arts and then hopes to transfer and continue playing volleyball at a four-year university. Over the past two seasons with the Panthers, she has accumulated 2,292 attacking attempts, 852 digs, 726 total points, 640 kills, 75 total blocks, 29 service aces, and 21 assists. Nielsen will now hold the 4th place spot in the ECC volleyball recordbooks for total career digs. With one match left to play, she is also tied for 4th in the career kills/set category with 2.8 and is 8 kills away from the 4th place spot for total career kills. In ICCAC rankings, Nicole holds the number four spot in kills/set (3.19) and ranks 8th in total kills (360), 11th in total digs (448), and 9th in digs/set (3.96). Coach Clark says, "Nicole has been an all-around outstanding player and leader for the Panthers over the last two years. Her ability to lead by example through her work ethic, competitiveness, and volleyball ability will be missed next year. I have no doubt that Nicole will continue to play volleyball and will continue to be successful both on and off the court."
Allison Sheridan is the final sophomore captain who has helped lead the team this year. Coach Clark says Sheridan is an extremely intelligent individual who has really grown and come out of her shell over the last two years. She will graduate in December with her AA in Graphic Design and then will begin her full-time job as a graphic designer for Campbell Supply Co. Over the past two seasons with the Panthers, she has accumulated 271 digs, 249 kills, 47 total blocks, and 41 service aces. Coach Clark says, "I was so happy that Ally chose to come to Ellsworth and play volleyball. She deserved to play after high school and has worked extremely hard to become the player she is today. I am very proud of the development I have seen in Ally on the court, but I'm even more proud of her character and the person she has grown into."
The Panthers lost in three close sets to MCC 25-20, 25-17 and 26-24. The Panthers will face DMACC on Wednesday, Nov. 1 at 7 pm in Region XI Semifinals.