COLFAX — Five senior volleyball players from Colfax who began playing together back in middle school (or possibly even before) had plans of building a program that would lead them to a conference championship and a deep run in the playoffs when they reached the high school level. Three of the girls, Kori Buchanan, Chey Olson and Dannielle Dachel amazingly were four year varsity players while Katie Christoffel saw varsity time for two years and Courtney Ottinger was there for her senior year.
In the four years, the team went from a 3-6 conference record as freshmen, losing in the first game of regionals, to a second place conference finish at 8-1 as sophomores, dropping a second round regional match to Elk Mound, the only team to beat them in conference. The extra hours of off season playing time paid off as they won the conference with an 8-1 record as juniors before falling in the second round of the regional tournament to Grantsburg, but they made their senior year one to remember, finishing with their second straight conference championship with a five set, come from behind win over Elk Mound in the final match to complete their perfect 9-0 conference season. But they continued their run down the tournament road by winning the first regional title for the school since 1997 by taking all three matches in three sets including the final one over the always powerful Grantsburg team. The season ended at Cameron as they put up a good fight but lost to the Comets, who just happened to win the sectional and played in the state tournament last weekend.
Buchanan made her name known around the conference pretty early, starting as a freshman and putting down 101 kills with 178 digs, 31 service aces and 29 assists. She led the conference in kills as a sophomore with 240, and continued to add to that total with 303 her junior year. With all the extra tournaments teams play now days, Buchanan had a lot of extra playing time and was not aware when she started her senior year she would have a chance to reach the 1,000 kill mark. (This is a milestone in volleyball which can be compared to scoring 1,000 points in basketball). She reached the milestone in the first round regional game against Glenwood City, making her the first girl in Colfax history to do so, then added to her total, finishing with 1,045 for her career. But she almost achieved a double-double as she ended her career with 957 digs which included 400 as a senior. Her final totals in the other areas of the game were 229 service aces, 295 assists and 19 solo blocks. Not only was Kori a First Team All Conference player as a sophomore, junior and senior, she was the first ever Conference Player of the Year her junior year and senior year. She was a WVCA All State Honorable Mention selection her junior year and more than likely will be selected again this year. Buchanan hopes to continue playing volleyball somewhere at the college level.
“Standing at only 5’7”, Kori packed a powerful punch of someone who is much taller,” coach Pam Meredith said. “Teams thought they could relax when she rotated to the back row but they found out she was just as deadly with back row attacks. She has been a threat in our conference as an outside hitter for four years and I’m sure the other coaches in the conference are relieved she is graduating! I have watched her make some amazing shots in tough situations and she always made it look easy. She has honed her skills by putting in a lot of extra time in the off season and has raised the bar not only for members of our team but for others in the area,” she added.
If there was a 1-2 punch at the net in the conference this year, Olson was a definite part of it for the Vikings. If Buchanan struggled against a double team, Olson was right there to put down the big kill or to make the save in the back row with a dig. Olson was a solid player her first three years on varsity, but elevated her game this year with a lot of off season playing time. She was second on the team in kills this year with 346, mostly from the middle position and was just 15 digs behind Buchanan with 385. She led the Vikings in blocks with 29 and had 38 service aces and 19 assists. Totals for her four years were 632 kills, 808 digs, 108 aces, 107 blocks and 19 assists. She was a First Team AC pick as a junior and a senior.
“The gains Chey made between her junior and senior year were unbelievable,” coach Meredith said. “She took her game to a whole new level both offensively and defensively. She is very athletic and found success in running a fast tempo offense from the front court. Like Kori, she was a threat from the back row with attacks but her specialty was extraordinary defense with a pursuit attitude like no other. All of us witnessed her dig some hits that no one else could have touched, much less kept the ball in play and she did it with grace and ease.”
Dachel was the starting setter for the team as a freshman and continued that role as a sophomore and junior. This year she was the second leading setter with 129 assists and she took on an added role of an outside hitter, coming up with 90 kills. Consistency in her serving game was a big plus for the team as she went on many a scoring run, sometimes with as many as six or more in a row to help build big leads. In four years Dachel slammed 152 kills, came up with 520 digs (192 as a senior), 136 service aces (44 her sophomore year) and 1,098 assists including a team leading 440 as a junior. She was a Second Team AC selection her junior and senior years. While a member of the cross country team for three years, there were many times when a volleyball match or tournament coincided with a cross country meet but Dachel had to make a decision before the season started which sport would come first and she chose volleyball.
“Dannielle was one of our most consistent players – fundamentally as well as mentally – on the court,” Meredith said. “She worked hard to perfect a variety of shots to generate points. I was especially pleased to see her improve on her defensive play as the season progressed. How many students do you know could perform at such a high level in two sports in the same season with the training and meet/game schedule we had?” she added.
Christoffel saw some varsity time as a junior but had the chance to show off her talents this year, mainly from the back court. As a defensive specialist, Christoffel came up with 220 digs with 190 this year. Her diving jump serve proved to be a handful for many opponents as she came up with 31 aces as a senior and 37 overall. She also added 13 assists as a senior.
“Katie was very successful as a defensive and serving specialist,” Meredith said. “She was very consistent in the serving department, she communicated well on the floor and found herself in the best spot defensively to dig shots from some of the top hitters in the area. She is extremely team orientated and she always brought a great attitude and leadership to every practice and game.”
Ottinger was another senior who had a chance to showcase her talents after working her way up from the junior varsity. As a senior, she showed her consistency at serving, coming up with 18 aces and only 23 errors in 307 attempts. She also did her job in the backcourt as she came up with some big digs with 117 in all.
“Courtney made a seamless transition into a varsity defensive and serving specialist,” said Meredith. “She just got the job done without a lot of accolades coming her way. Because of her consistency serving, we had her serve when Kori and Chey were in the front row to keep that rotation solid. Like Katie, she was all about the team and she stepped into any position we asked her to,” she added.
“I couldn’t have asked for a more dedicated group of seniors to coach,” Meredith said. “It is never easy to say good bye but I would like to believe that there are many young athletes who had the opportunity to watch them play volleyball these past years and they will put the time and effort in to playing at the same level,” she concluded.
The future looks bright for Colfax with Buchanan, Dachel, Ottinger and Olson all having a younger sister (or in Buchanan’s case two of them) all playing volleyball in the lower levels at this point.