Groenewold and Hawks having season to smile about

By Paul D. Bowker
Posted 10/13/21

One recent Saturday morning, Mid-Prairie volleyball players Ella Groenewold and Maddie Nonnenmann decided to measure each other’s height.

Just for fun.

It happened to be Maddie’s …

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Groenewold and Hawks having season to smile about

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One recent Saturday morning, Mid-Prairie volleyball players Ella Groenewold and Maddie Nonnenmann decided to measure each other’s height.

Just for fun.

It happened to be Maddie’s birthday, so why not?

A few hours later, Groenewold, with a second-place medal dangling around her neck which was earned after a day full of blocks and kills at the New London Tournament, reflected on a season that has produced a new Golden Hawks squad and a new role for Groenewold.

She remembers two seasons ago, when as a freshman, the Golden Hawks lost their last 13 matches, an ugly streak that began with losses to Van Buren County and West Burlington in the 2019 New London Tournament.

She remembers the 2020 season, when she was quarantined and didn’t even get to play in New London.

And that’s why she was smiling on this day.

“It’s just amazing we can come into a tournament like this and do so well,” Groenewold said.

A big part of the reason is Groenewold, whose shot blocking is so dominant that her 75 blocks are 30 more than any other player in the River Valley South. She is ranked fifth in all of Class 3A.

In a 15-13 Set 3 win against host New London that sent the Golden Hawks to the championship match October 2 against West Burlington, Groenewold rose up and delivered the match-winning kill, a thunderous slam.

Mid-Prairie lost the championship match against West Burlington, the ninth-ranked team in Class 3A, but Groenewold displayed the force she has been this season for the Golden Hawks and the force that she will be next year as a senior. 

She had five kills and three blocks, finishing out the day with 36 kills and a team-high 19 blocks.

Groenewold’s emergence as a power blocker and hitter arrived long before a runner-up finish in New London. With the graduation of a starting lineup in 2020 that consisted of virtually all seniors, Groenewold became the new force at the net. It hasn’t always been fun. The best hitters and blockers on opposing teams are often given one task: stop Groenewold.

“We kind of talked about how you can be a good teammate because they’re really keying on her,” said Mid-Prairie head coach Sherry Evans. “She’s one of our best hitters that we’ve got on the front row. Just keeping encouraging her to do her part, running her fakes and shooting it to the outside, allowing more of a one-on-one situation with her outside the right side. I’m very proud of Ella for keeping her head in it and maybe didn’t get set as much, but you know what, she’s doing her job. And she’s using blocking. So proud of her.”

Along with those adjustments came a new leadership role. Not such an easy thing.

“This year, especially, I had to assume more of a leadership role on the team. I’d say that’s something I’ve always, not struggled with, but it’s been more difficult,” she said. “I’d say I’m a pretty-like quiet person in general. But with this team, they’re accepting of everything that you do. They understand everything that you say. You just feel comfortable with the team.”

That is especially evident along Mid-Prairie’s front row, where the Golden Hawks are attacking the net and at times dominating their opponents. Among those joining Groenewold along hitter’s row are seniors Maddie Nonnenmann and Alyssa McDowell, juniors Maya Nonnenmann and Landry Pacha, and freshman Brenna Jehle.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Maddie Nonnenmann said. “It’s kind of like the wall.”

As the Golden Hawks head into the first round of the Class 3A tournament next Tuesday against Tipton, they’ll depend on that wall. If Mid-Prairie survives its playoff opener, the Golden Hawks could then face No. 7-ranked West Liberty and No. 9 West Burlington.

It is not an easy road.

And the Golden Hawks will need Groenewold.

“Oh, my goodness. She’s grown enormously and she just helps carry our team from the front row,” Maddie Nonnenmann said. “She’s always there with the blocks and everything. She took a really big step up for us this year.”

But that step up is still just a tiny bit short. Or at least that’s what the measurement on a Saturday morning showed.

Groenewold, who is about 6 feet, says Maddie is maybe a half inch taller.

Ella had a good laugh about that.

 News columnist Paul Bowker can be reached at bowkerpaul1@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @bowkerpaul.

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