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Finucan secures all-NCC first-team honor

Lynx seniors Schwandt and Hoversten also claim accolades

WCHS sophomore libero Alayna Finucan lunges for a dig near the back line during a match this season. She was recently named to the all-North Central Conference first team. DFJ file photo/Troy Banning

WEBSTER CITY — Alayna Finucan was arguably the top defensive player in the North Central Conference throughout the volleyball season, and she was recently rewarded accordingly.

After leading the league in digs and digs per set, both by a wide margin, the Webster City sophomore libero was named to the all-conference first team by the league coaches at season’s end.

Finucan was one of three WCHS players to receive an all-conference nod. Senior middle hitter Adalie Schwandt was named to the second team, while classmate and fellow middle hitter Grace Hoversten landed a spot on the third team.

“I thought the awards were very deserving for the girls,” WCHS head coach Jess Howard said. “They all had great seasons and the coaches within the conference acknowledged that. So it was good for them to get that recognition.”

Four outside hitters were unanimous choices to the first team — Clarion-Goldfield-Dows junior Morgan Middleton, Algona senior Abbey Holmes, Humboldt junior Jori Hajek and Iowa Falls-Alden junior Jenny Wibholm.

WCHS senior middle hitters Adalie Schwandt (14) and Grace Hoversten (8) celebrate a kill during a match this season. Schwandt was recently named to the all-NCC second team, while Hoversten was a third-team selection. DFJ file photo/Troy Banning

The remainder of the first team included CGD junior libero Jadyn Jondle and junior setter Alaina Friesleben, as well as Humboldt junior setter Deni McDaniel.

Finucan’s numbers speak for themselves. She concluded the campaign with 520 digs and 5.59 digs per set, a number that spiked to nearly seven per set in league action. Jondle was second in both categories, her total 107 short of Finucan.

“She had to go up against a lot of really good hitters in the conference and when they did hit in her direction she completely owned them,” Howard said of Finucan. “To get a lot of digs is one thing, but to get a lot of digs off great hitters is another thing.”

Which begs the question: Just why wasn’t Finucan a unanimous choice? Howard didn’t want to touch that question, but she did say it was perhaps surprising.

“I thought she had a really good chance of being a unanimous selection and hopefully that’s something that pushes her in the offseason,” Howard said. “I know she was very deserving of being on the first team.”

Finucan, a second-team all-NCC selection following her freshman season in 2018, became just the fourth WCHS player all-time to reach 1,000 career digs during the season. She will likely move to the top of the leaderboard during her junior campaign next fall.

Schwandt, a multiple-time all-conference honoree as well, ranked sixth in the NCC in kills with 248. She hit .216 from the front row, and also was perfect from behind the service line in conference competition.

Hoversten challenged Schwandt for the team lead in kills. She concluded her campaign with 204 kills — the eighth most in the NCC — and a kill efficiency of .162.

“Those two fed off each other and gave each other a little bit of a break too,” Howard said. “Having both of them have strong years allowed us to have a successful year.”

WCHS finished the season at 19-17 and reached the Class 4A regional semifinal round before it was knocked off by eventual state qualifier Waverly-Shell Rock. The Lynx went 3-4 in the NCC, good enough for fifth place behind CGD, Humboldt, Algona and Iowa Falls-Alden.

Middleton was the overwhelming leader in the front row with 576 kills. Wibholm (381), Algona’s Molly McCauley (321), Hajek (320) and Holmes (302) rounded out the top five.

All-NCC Teams

First Team

Outside hitter — *Abbey Holmes, sr, Algona; *Jori Hajek, jr, Humboldt; *Morgan Middleton, jr, Clarion-Goldfield-Dows; *Jenny Wibholm, jr, Iowa Falls-Alden.

Libero — Alayna Finucan, soph, Webster City; Jadyn Jondle, jr, Clarion-Goldfield-Dows.

Setter — Alaina Friesleben, jr, Clarion-Goldfield-Dows; Deni McDaniel, jr, Humboldt.

Second Team

Middle hitter — Adalie Schwandt, sr, Webster City; Molly McCauley, sr, Algona; Emily Zaugg, jr, Humboldt.

Outside hitter — Josie Huss, sr, St. Edmond; Kendall Lienemann, jr, Clarion-Goldfield-Dows.

Libero — Carlie Thompson, sr, Humboldt.

Setter — Julia Merfeld, sr, Clear Lake; Abby Redmond, sr, Iowa Falls-Alden.

Third Team

Middle hitter — Grace Hoversten, sr, Webster City; Tara Krull, sr, Hampton-Dumont; Mady Lange, sr, Humboldt; Delaney Eden, jr, Clear Lake; Lexie Lane, fr, Clarion-Goldfield-Dows.

Outside hitter — Claire Varangkounh, sr, Humboldt.

Libero — Hadyn Miller, sr, Iowa Falls-Alden.

Defensive specialist — Kameryn Etherington, sr, Algona.

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