NORFOLK – With a full slate of Iowa Community College Athletic Conference games scheduled beginning January 24, the reigning four-time Region XI champion Northeast Community College will be taking to the court in 2021.
According to a release from the Northeast Community College Athletics Department, the Hawks are hoping for a return trip to the NJCAA DII National Tournament for the fifth year in a row.
Returning to the national tournament will be no easy task for the Hawks after graduating a talented sophomore class. The Hawks will look to key returners and a strong core of freshmen when the Hawks take the court in the new year.
Sophomores Elizabeth Christensen (Stanton, Neb.), Carly Hirsch (Norfolk, Neb.) and Jamie Bonifas (Blue Hill, Neb.) will be heavily relied on throughout the season. Last year’s sophomore class left big shoes to fill as All-Region and All-Conference performers Caitlin Orton, Elley Beaver, Hannah Heppner, Makayla Davidson and Caitlin Kumm have all graduated.
Heppner broke the individual blocking record for most blocks in a game and a career. She also holds the record for most blocks in a single season. As a team, the Hawks were ranked in the top-15 for total kills at the DII level with 1,657 kills. They also ranked No. 1 for most digs in a season with 3,427. Altogether, they broke the record for most blocks, blocks per game, kills, assists, digs and digs per game.
As a team, the 2019 volleyball squad finished 22-18 and led the Hawks back to the national tournament in Charleston, W.V., which wasn’t an easy task after beating North Iowa Area Community College in the Region XI championship in five sets.
Hirsch, Bonifas and Christensen return after seeing significant playing time as freshmen. Hirsch was a prominent attacker in her first year with the Hawks. She tallied 186 kills, 138 digs and 86 blocks as the starting middle blocker. Bonifas led the Hawks with 787 assists at the setter position. She also added 256 digs and 27 blocks in 27 matches. Christensen saw immediate action in many positions on the court, collecting 237 digs in 31 matches.
Former Alliance standout Payton Weber will be looked upon to be a prominent outside hitter. Weber was a three-time letter winner and two-year starter for the Bulldogs and was named the Female Athlete of the Year, Most Valuable Player and Female Lifter of the Year.
Makayla Forsberg (Laurel, Neb.) joins the Hawks after a successful prep career at Laurel-Concord-Coleridge High School where she was a three-time letter winner and three-year starter for the Bears. She led her team to a district runner-up finish as a senior and was named a Lewis and Clark All-Conference member. Taylor Stelling (Milford, Neb.), Kinsey Skillstad (North Platte, Neb.), Hayley Hughes (Burwell, Neb.) and transfer Alexis Kapales (Jonesboro, Ark.) will push for starting roles at various positions.
Northeast Community College will open their season on Saturday, January 23 hosting Central Community College – Columbus in a non-conference match. Their first conference contest will be vs. Marshalltown Community College on Sunday, January 24.
To begin the season, no spectators will be allowed at any indoor athletic event after a vote was taken by the presidents of the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference institutions. Student-athletes, coaches and necessary staff will be the only personnel allowed at indoor events. Allowing spectators at outdoor events will be up to the host institution.