Comet volleyball team begins season in festive mood

Press photo by John Burbridge Charles City sophomore Danielle Stock goes up for a hit during Tuesday’s practice in Comet Gym.
Press photo by John Burbridge
Charles City sophomore Danielle Stock goes up for a hit during Tuesday’s practice in Comet Gym.
By John Burbridge sports@charlescitypress.com

CHARLES CITY — There was a party in Comet Gym on Monday.

What … you didn’t get an invitation?

This was more of a members-only party to celebrate the start of the new Charles City High School volleyball season.

On Tuesday, the balloons and ribbons were still in place. But if there were any cake and ice cream from the day before, they were long gone. It was time to get busy.

For former Comet player Maddie Fank, this is her second season leading the program.

Press photo by John Burbridge Junior Jennifer Martin sets up senior Jodie Sindlinger during a late-afternoon practice on Tuesday.
Press photo by John Burbridge
Junior Jennifer Martin sets up senior Jodie Sindlinger during a late-afternoon practice on Tuesday.

“I feel I’m more prepared going into this season,” said Fank, whose Comets finished with a 25-15 record, getting as far as the regional final before getting stopped short of state by Waverly-Shell Rock.

“By the end of last season I knew what we needed to improve on,” Fank said. “One thing we need to do is be more aggressive on our serves. Last year we were consistent in getting them in, but we need to hit them much harder.”

The Comets were also consistent in setting up hitting attempts as they rarely made unforced errors.

“But we were getting blocked a lot of times,” Fank said. “We too often hit into the lanes where the defenders were. This year, we’re going to use different sets … move our hitters around so the defense is not just waiting for us.”

As sure as fall coming after summer, high school teams will always have holes to fill from since-graduated seniors. For the Comets, the challenge is more daunting than normal as they lost seven seniors.

“But I only had those seniors for one year,” Fank said. “This year’s senior class I know a little better.”

Only three senior letterwinners return for Charles City: Sam Alinea, Sami Heyer and Jodie Sindlinger.

“This is crunch time for us,” said Alinea, who will likely play the libero role for the Comets this season. “There was always another year or two for us … like last year as juniors we saw how much our seniors wanted it to be their best season. Now we know how they felt.”

“I’m not ready for it to be my senior year,” Heyer said. “I wish I had more time to play and help these younger players.”

Heyer has just completed another outstanding softball season from which she was named to the Class 4A All-State first team as a pitcher after helping the Comets reach the State Softball Championships for the third straight year.

A tough first inning in the opener spoiled a chance for a state title, but Heyer has moved on … to the next season.

“It was disappointing,” Heyer said, “but that was with my softball family. Now I’m with my volleyball family.”

Speaking of families, Sindlinger — a third-year varsity middle hitter — has family ties to the last Charles City volleyball state championship team in 2012 from which her older sisters played on.

“Volleyball is pretty big in our family,” Sindlinger said, “but so is softball and a lot of other sports.”

Alinea says she plans to play volleyball in college. Heyer’s collegiate career for the most part is already set as she has verbally committed to pitch for Northern Iowa’s softball team.

Sindlinger, who in addition to leading the Comets in blocks last season will also be Charles City’s returning leading scorer in girls basketball as well as a returning No. 1 singles and doubles players in tennis, indicated that this may be her last scholastic year of scholastic sports.

“But we’re going to try to make her change her mind about volleyball,” Fank said.

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