Rebels ready to roll with the changes

Members of the 2019 Northeast volleyball team are (front, from left) Miya Messerich, Aubrey O’Dell, Jade Lanxon, Bree Mangelsen, Audrey Morris; (middle) Madison Tarr, Neveah Hildebrandt, Ellie Rickertsen, Alexis Ehlers, Valerie Spooner, Coby Johnson; (back) Cora Wiersema, Clarissa Jacobsen, Sierra Wegener, Aubrie Kruse and Claire Abbott.

The Northeast volleyball program is becoming an old pro at dealing with changing faces.

Two years ago, the Rebels needed to replace 10 seniors from the previous year’s regional final team.

Last year, Northeast found itself in the exact same boat. It had also graduated 10 seniors from the season before.

Fortunately, the run of losing 10 seniors is over, but the Rebels do need to replace five who took part in at least 60 sets last season.

And that is not the only big change either, as former assistant Jake Schaefer has taken over for Aubree Tanzillo as Northeast’s new head coach.

Easing all of the shifting personnel is the fact that Northeast still boasts plenty of experience.

Four Rebels returnees saw action in at least 90 percent of the team’s sets a season ago, while a fifth appeared in more than 80 percent.

That three of those returnees — juniors Alexis Ehlers and Neveah Hildebrandt and senior Bree Mangelsen — ranked first, second and third, respectively, on the team in attack attempts is a nice bonus.

Mangelsen put down 55 kills as a junior and tied for second on the team with 34 kills, while Hildebrandt had 51 kills — a number she is already set to surpass — and served up 12 aces.

Ehlers chipped in 46 kills last season and was the team’s leader in blocks with 36, while also finishing second on the team with 89 digs.

Giving the Rebels even more options on the attack are senior Claire Abbott and junior Valerie Spooner.

Abbott, a varsity newcomer, has already put down 30 kills this fall and leads the team with 17 aces and 14 blocks.

Spooner has matched Mangelsen with 24 kills in the early going and has 10 blocks of her own.

Junior Sierra Wegener and senior Audrey Morris have combined for nine early kills, while sophomore Aubrie Kruse has 15 attack attempts.

The Rebels need to replace both of their two leading setters with senior Jade Lanxon and sophomore Ellie Rickertsen stepping up to do just that in the early going.

Both are essentially varsity newcomers — Lanxon played in two varsity sets as a junior — but have made a big impact.

Lanxon has already dished out 105 assists and has given the Rebels a lift on defense with 44 digs — good for second on the team — while Rickertsen has added 56 assists of her own, while adding seven kills.

Senior Miya Messerich leads the way on defense. 

Playing as the team’s libero, Messerich — who had 80 digs a year ago — has paced the team with 68 digs. Sophomore Madison Tarr, meanwhile, has added 20 digs, more than double the nine she had in 15 sets as a freshman.

Junior Coby Johnson, meanwhile, has eight early digs.

There are three teams from the River Valley Conference in the latest edition of the state rankings, but each of them hail from the South division.

Five different teams in the North division, however, have at least 10 victories.

Cascade leads the way with an 11-3 mark, but they are joined by Bellevue with 11 victories, while Monticello, Anamosa and North Cedar all have 10 wins.