By CONOR NICHOLL
Thomas More Prep-Marian volleyball trio of coach Natausha Dreher and seniors Emilee Lane and Kassidi Yost are long intertwined.
Dreher first coached Lane in club volleyball in the younger ranks. Yost had set for Lane since eighth grade. Lane has loved Yost’s sets and the duo developed strong chemistry throughout junior high and high school. Lane, Yost and sophomore libero Keria Wagstaff were the team captains this fall.
“We always get each other very well,” Lane said.
Lane and Yost significantly credited Dreher for their individual growth and the longtime success of the TMP program. Dreher, known for her passion and enthusiasm for volleyball, led the Monarchs to a 28-11 record this season, including a three-set win Sept. 28 versus Mid-Continent League rival Smith Center, the 2A state champions.
TMP finished with a sub-state championship loss to Beloit, which also beat the Monarchs in a close five-set match in the season opener. Beloit was a 3A final four squad.
The match marked the end of a record-setting careers and coaching era for Monarch volleyball.
The 6-foot-1 Lane earned 3A first team all-state honors (top-seven) by the Kansas Volleyball Coaches Association. The 5-8 Yost collected all-state honorable mention (top-21) and was one of just three setters named either first, second or third team.
“She pushes you super hard, and I think that’s really helped us overall,” Yost said.
Last year, Yost was first team all-state, Lane second team. Lane also picked up second team honors as a sophomore. Both were four-year starters. Yost finished her career with 657 digs, 576 kills, 185 aces and 2,475 assists. Yost started to set on and off in junior high and freshman year, and then “just kind of took off” as a sophomore.
“Honestly, it’s pretty awesome, and I think honestly, it just kind of shows the hard work I put in and everything,” Yost said of the career numbers. “I just think it’s amazing.”
Lane delivered 993 digs, 117 blocks and 1,706 kills.
Yost and Lane are believed to have set TMP’s school marks for career assists and kills.
It’s also highly rare for two players on the same team to clear 2,000 career assists and 1,500 kills in the same season. Both Lane and Yost are part of TMP’s National Honor Society, a class inducted in early October.
Lane carries a 4.0 GPA and is a two-time state track medalist in the 800/800 relay. Yost, undecided on college, was fourth in the 3A high jump last spring.
This Thursday, Thomas More Prep-Marian basketball opens at the annual Hays City Shoot-Out. TMP girls are ranked seventh in Class 3A, and the Monarch boys are third.
Lane and junior Jaci VonLintel were first and second all-conference basketball selections last winter. Lane, a four-year starter in basketball, delivered a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds a game. Yost is a returning basketball starter for a 19-4 squad.
“We are super close,” Yost told SIK earlier this fall. “We get along really well and everything, and we just have a really good connection since we have been playing so long together, and it’s just really nice to have someone out there to play with like that.”
Earlier this month, Lane signed with University of Nebraska-Kearney, a longtime Division II national power with coach Rick Squiers. Once the pandemic hit, Lane was at home and started to send out emails to a high number of schools.
Lane had planned to go to a team camp in summer 2020. Then, plans changed, and they were not going to be able to go. Still, Lane went to a UNK camp with a couple girls, including then-Trego standout Lili Shubert.
“I just really enjoyed my time,” Lane said. “And I was like, I could really see myself here if the opportunity comes. And then I just continued talking with them.”
This fall, UNK, ranked No. 12 nationally, posted a 25-6 record and qualified for the NCAA national tournament that opens this weekend. The Lopers have qualified for the NCAA tournament for 22 straight seasons, the second-longest current run in Division II volleyball. UNK has twice finished national runner-up.
“Emilee is a dynamic and versatile attacker with huge potential at the next level,” Squiers said in a Signing Day statement. “She can play above the net and score immediately as a hitter and blocker in the MIAA, but also shows promise as an eventual back row contributor. We’re very excited about the impact she can make on Loper volleyball.”
In late October, Dreher announced her resignation after 11 years as Monarch volleyball coach. By far TMP’s all-time best volleyball coach, she posted a 272-142 mark with four league titles and four state berths. Dreher led TMP to the Class 3A state volleyball title in 2017. In ’14, she led TMP to its first state appearance in 29 years.
Dreher earned 2017 Class 3A Coach of the Year. She was instrumental in growing volleyball in western Kansas and throughout the state. At ’18, she presented at the annual KSHSAA coaching skill and served as the Kansas Volleyball Advisory Committee 3A West Representative.
“Although I have much enjoyed my time coaching these young ladies for the past 11 seasons, life experiences have changed my spark for coaching,” Dreher said in a TMP release. “While these past seasons have brought me great joy…I need to step away from the game and take care of myself and my family.”
The Mid-Continent League enjoyed a great year in volleyball, especially with its top-three programs: Smith Center, TMP and Phillipsburg. SC is second and first the last two years in 2A volleyball. Phillipsburg finished 25-13. All three teams, along with WaKeeney-Trego, are expected to be loaded in girls’ basketball.
Just like most years, the top MCL volleyball players are quality MCL girls’ basketball players. In volleyball, the top-seven first team all-league selections were all unanimous, a highly rare achievement: Lane, Yost, Smith Center seniors Tallon Rentschler and Ashlyn Long, Smith Center sophomore Camryn Hutchinson, Phillipsburg junior Heather Schemper, and Phillipsburg 6-foot senior Abby Babcock.
Plus, Phillipsburg junior Taryn Sides was second team. Rentschler, the 2A volleyball player of the year, has signed with Fort Hays volleyball. Long is headed to Hutchinson CC volleyball. Sides has committed to Kansas State basketball. The 5-foot-11 Schemper is a 400-meter state track champion and has been ranked fourth in Kansas in the Class of 2023 by Prep Dig.
In the preseason basketball coaches’ rankings, Phillipsburg is sixth in 3A, Smith Center and Trego fifth and seventh respectively in 2A. Sides, Rentschler and Lane were three-fifths of first team all-MCL basketball last winter, and Schemper was honorable mention (top-15).
In volleyball, Lane and Yost (unanimous) were first team all-league in 2020 and 2019. Lane was also a unanimous first team pick as a freshman. Lane, though, noticed improvements.
“Just better at seeing the floor and being more aggressive with it and having more confidence,” Lane said. “I was watching my freshman game. I literally hit it at a defender every single time. I was fully just shocked at myself…Now, I am more confident in my abilities.”
Lane used to not look at statistics very much, though realized she was at 1,281 career kills entering this fall.
“Next year, I am going to get 1,500,” she said.
She cleared the threshold on Sept. 28 in a quadrangular against Russell, Phillipsburg and Smith Center. The MCL girls all know each other well, especially from club volleyball. Lane has partnered with the Smith Center trio and Schemper.
“Playing with them is so much fun, and playing against them is also so much fun,” Yost said. “It’s just really interesting, and fun to compete.”
After the Sept. 28 quadrangular between Smith Center, Phillipsburg and Russell, Lane posed a question to Schemper.
“’Do you want to teach me how to jump that high?’,” Lane said.
TMP finished 3-0 in the quadrangular. Both Lane and Yost had huge performances in three-set comeback victories versus Phillipsburg and Smith Center. Lane delivered 19 kills and hit .500 in a 16-25, 25-11, 25-19 win versus the Panthers. Yost finished with 25 assists.
At the end of the Smith Center comeback win, TMP had a freshman serving. Lane said she was “really proud” of the team’s supporting cast and younger players and the team’s composure. The Monarchs saved several match points.
“We knew it wasn’t over,” Lane said. “So we had a really good fight, even though we were down.”
TMP came back to win 14-25, 25-18, 26-24. Lane recorded 16 of her team’s 33 kills and hit .484. Yost delivered 23 assists, seven kills and a .462 average. Overall, Smith Center finished 43-2.
“It was super intense,” Yost said. “Obviously losing that first one was kind of hard, but I feel like we just had the momentum on our side, and we were just there to win. We were ready.”
Lane and Rentschler had talked about playing college volleyball together in Hays. Instead, they will again match up in college. UNK and Fort Hays are big MIAA rivals.
“It would be so much fun, we could play together,” Lane said. “Instead of being competitors all the time. Actually play on the same team for once, not just club for once. And it would have been really exciting, because she is amazing to play with.”