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Signing Success: Jimmie volleyball lands area standouts

Area high school volleyball standouts, left to right, Hannah Schiele, Megan Gaffaney, Anna Holen and Jackie Meiklejohn have all committed to University of Jamestown starting in 2018. Submitted photo

The North Dakota High School Coaches Association doles out a pair of awards each season to the state's top two senior volleyball players.

Rather remarkably, University of Jamestown head volleyball coach Jon Hegerle has put both 2017 recipients in Jimmie orange and black.

Jamestown High School's Megan Gaffaney, the reigning Class A volleyball outstanding senior athlete of the year, and LaMoure High School's Anna Holen, Gaffaney's Class B counterpart, are currently one half of an impressive—all local—recruiting class for Hegerle and the Jimmies. Jamestown's Hannah Schiele and LaMoure's Jackie Meiklejohn have also signed on the dotted line.

"We are very excited to have such great regional talent join our program," Hegerle said. "We have worked with this group for many years in our camps and through our youth development teams, and have watched them grow into outstanding student-athletes. When you look at what these players have been able to accomplish in their careers it really speaks to their ability and their character."

Gaffaney shattered Jamestown High School's career and single-season assists records this past season. The 5-foot-8 setter amassed 3,679 assists as a four-year starter for the Blue Jays, posting 1,031 during her senior campaign.

Gaffaney, also an all-state soccer player and all-WDA basketball player for the Jays, broke her own Blue Jay career assists record of 2,648 entering the season, while also posting career numbers of 240 aces, 1,392 digs, 557 kills and 167 blocks. Jamestown placed second at the Class A state volleyball tournament last month with an overall record of 37-6.

"I've always been around the Jimmie program and the Hegerles in general, and when it came down to it, it just felt right," said Gaffaney, whose high school volleyball coach, Sara Hegerle, is Jon's wife. "It just felt more natural to continue playing volleyball."

Hannah Schiele, Gaffaney's teammate for four more years, is arguably one of the best liberos to come out of a program known statewide to produce top-shelf, back-row athletes. The all-state performer's 807 digs this past fall set a new Blue Jay single-season record, which also helped her produce a school-record 2,143 career digs.

Schiele, also an all-state gymnast and softball player for the Jays, joins former Jamestown High School standout liberos Julina Niemeier and Meghan Orr in the Jimmies' current back row. Schiele's mother, Cheryl, and aunt, Patty Glennon, are also former Jimmie volleyball players.

"It was obvious to me," Schiele said. "I love Jamestown, and when I saw they signed Megan ... and Anna and Jackie. They're all such great players and great girls, and I'm really excited to work with them and have new teammates.

"It'll definitely be a quicker pace than high school, but I'm super excited for the ride."

Holen and Meiklejohn will be the 1-2 punch forever linked to LaMoure-Litchville-Marion's string of three consecutive Class B state volleyball championships. Making the varsity as eighth-graders, the co-Region 3 senior athletes of the year and all-state honorees led the Loboes to a record of 185-15-1 in five seasons.

Holen, a 5-8 outside hitter and also a first team all-state basketball player for the Loboes, is following in the footsteps of six older siblings who have attended University of Jamestown. Her career prep volleyball numbers are staggering: 2,867 kills (school record), 2,333 digs (school record), 303 aces and 208 blocks.

"My mom and dad joke that after six, the seventh one should be free," Holen laughed. "I knew I wanted to go to Jamestown, it was just either between volleyball or basketball.

"The success (L-L-M) has had the past few years in volleyball, I didn't know if I could leave that behind. That and the way Jon runs his volleyball program is something I wanted to be a part of."

Meiklejohn's school-record 4,945 career assists jumps off the page. The 5-2 setter also rang up 392 service aces in her L-L-M career and helped the Loboes capture the state three-peat last month with season numbers of 67 aces and 1,191 assists.

Meiklejohn's older sister, Jada Anderson, finished her volleyball career as an all-conference setter for the Jimmies in 2011.

"For me it was a lot about the coaching staff and the volleyball program," Meiklejohn said. "They've been really successful, and since my sister did play for Jon I've been around the program for a long time and his way of coaching is how I learned how to play volleyball.

"I'm expecting there to be a lot of hard work, but I'm very excited to be around that level of play."

University of Jamestown just wrapped up a historic postseason run, culminating in the Sweet 16 of the NAIA Women's Volleyball National Championship tournament Dec. 1 in Sioux City, Iowa. Never before had Jimmie volleyball advanced to the final 16 teams at nationals.

The Jimmies (23-10) reached 20 wins for a 12th consecutive season, but will lose six key seniors to graduation.

"I couldn't be more excited about this recruiting class and the future of our program," coach Hegerle said. "The gap between the level they played in high school and the level our varsity team plays at is substantial, but I believe these players have a great foundation to bridge the gap with success.

"This is a testament to the quality and successes of the Blue Jay and LaMoure programs and coaching staffs, as well as the attitude and effort with which these players have approached their development."

Michael Savaloja

Hometown: Churchs Ferry, N.D.; College: North Dakota

A recipient of the NDHSCA Award of Merit, Savaloja has been reporting sports for The Sun since 2008.

Follow on Twitter: @MichaelSavaloja

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