By CONOR NICHOLL
Senior Sarah Madsen has fulfilled multiple roles for the Hiawatha volleyball team. She is listed as an outside hitter, setter and middle blocker and can play any position.
This fall, she has led the Red Hawks to a breakout 27-3 season and current fifth place ranking in Class 3A by the Kansas Volleyball Coaches Association. Hiawatha has won nine straight matches and stands 11-1 with sixth-year coach Brenda Siebenmorgen.
Hiawatha could deliver the school’s best season since the ‘80s. An experienced group has led the Red Hawks to a sizable turnaround. Hiawatha was 2-29, 5-26, 15-17 and 17-13 the last four years.
Class 4A’s Augusta and Baldwin, Hiawatha, 2A’s Ellinwood and 1A-1’s Centralia are the only current squads to be unranked in the preseason and now be ranked in the top-six in a classification.
Last weekend, Hiawatha posted a 5-0 record to win the Atchison tournament. Hiawatha earned pool play wins versus Horton, Maur Hill and Paola. The Red Hawks beat Atchison in the semifinal, and then Paola in the championship. Paola has been ranked throughout the fall in Class 4A. On Tuesday, Hiawatha earned a sweep against Riverside and Jefferson West.
Madsen has more than 200 kills and has hit well over .300 during the year. She and senior Clara Lindstrom have led Hiawatha in aces. Madsen is among the block leaders, along with Lindstrom and senior Lakyn Leupold. Lindstrom, a four-year starter, is just shy of 200 kills. She has delivered 225 digs, per MSC Sports.
Four players have more than 100 digs with Madsen, Lindstrom and two juniors: Sutton Diller and Josie Delaney. Both Madsen and Delaney have earned team player of the week honors. Diller, who didn’t play last season because of injury, took over at libero for her sister, Brenna, now playing at Ottawa University.
Overall, Hiawatha lists nine girls on varsity. Additionally, senior setter Emma Bigham, sophomore middle blocker Abby Elffner, senior right side/middle blocker Bailey Pierce and senior right side/DS Mikayla Simmons are on the squad. Junior Brynn Williams has earned attention within the team for taking on new roles.
Hiawatha has plenty of height. Elffner is 6-1, Leupold 6-foot and Madsen is 5-11. Team captains are Lindstrom and Madsen.
Madsen and Lindstrom joined varsity as freshman. They were all-league players as sophomores. Leupold, Diller and Delaney are all multi-year players. Last year, Delaney, Lindstrom and Madsen were first team all-league players. Madsen was a unanimous selection.
In 2021, Hiawatha has broken a several series losing streaks, mainly against Big Seven opponents. The Red Hawks are 3-0 against Royal Valley this year. Before this fall, Hiawatha had lost eight in a row to RV. Hiawatha has split with Nemaha Central. On Aug. 31, Hiawatha defeated NC, 2-0. Nemaha Central won in two sets on Sept. 28. Nemaha Central is currently ranked fourth in 3A.
On Sept. 11, Hiawatha beat Marysville in two sets, which ended a stretch of seven straight losses that led back to 2010.
Hiawatha is part of the loaded Sabetha sub-state, which generally has multiple ranked teams. The top-six teams are all well over .500: Hiawatha, Nemaha Central (26-5), Rossville (23-5), Marysville (21-10), Royal Valley (18-10) and Pleasant Ridge (17-10).
PR coach Julie Slater led Lansing for more than 30 years and is No. 1 current all-time in Kansas volleyball wins. Defending state champion Sabetha is 12-14. Per KSHSAA archives, Hiawatha has not made the state volleyball tournament since 1983.