Biever keeps W-K volleyball on winning course
WABASHA — It took Tara Biever a moment to recount all the head volleyball coaches she worked with at Wabasha-Kellogg, before she took the job for herself in 2007.
"We went through five head coaches in six years," explained Biever, who was an assistant coach to all of them beginning in 2000 with her own former coach, Kay Olson-Rabel.
Olson-Rabel coached the Falcons throughout the 1980s and '90s and established W-K as one of southeastern Minnesota's most consistent programs.
Frequent turnover at head coach is seldom beneficial for a sports program, yet it didn't disrupt W-K's winning groove, Biever noted.
Mary Bauer guided the Falcons to their first section crown in 2002, and W-K won Section 1AA again in 2004 under Katie Gove, who was eight months pregnant at the state tournament.
"Quite honestly I learned from each of those coaches; they were all fabulous people," said Biever, whose last name was Ellinghysen when she graduated from W-K in 1984. "Prior to (2007), I didn't feel I was really ready to have the head job."
Biever has shown that she's up to the task, quickly approaching her 100th career win in just her fourth season as head coach. And W-K is on a familiar course, with a perfect 18-0 record and a No. 3 ranking in Class A two-thirds of the way through the season.
The Falcons have lost only two games all season and among their match wins was a 2-1 decision over Stewartville in the championship of the Century Invitational tournament three weeks ago. Stewartville is ranked No. 6 in Class AA this week.
"I think that win over Stewartville was very big for our confidence," said sophomore co-captain Kalyn Biever, the coach's daughter. "The last time we had beaten them was in 2004, when I was in grade school."
W-K senior co-captain Katlyn Peters said Tara Biever, who is four wins shy of 100, deserves much of the credit for the Falcons' recent success.
W-K has played in the Section 1A finals two of the last three years, losing both times to eventual state champion Faribault Bethlehem Academy.
"Coach Biever keeps us together as a team and keeps us fired up, and she loves us all," Peters said. "She pretty much eats, drinks and sleeps volleyball."
Player's return helps
Only one starter graduated from last year's section finalist team, so no one is surprised W-K is strong again. Yet could the Falcons possibly be as good, minus all-state hitter Nicole Peters, who is now playing Division II volleyball at Upper Iowa University?
"My sister and I are very close and I didn't want to lose her; we had played on the same teams forever," Katlyn Peters said. "But I knew we had someone who could step up and take her place, and we'd still be good."
W-K has been fortified by the return of senior outside hitter Mariah Iverson-Jones, who missed the last two volleyball seasons with a knee injury.
Iverson-Jones, along with senior middle Amanda Feils and sophomore outside Katie Cavalco, gives the Falcons three of the strongest hitters in the Three Rivers Conference.
"Mariah has blown out the same ACL twice, but she was cleared to play with us on Aug. 1, and she has been huge for us," Biever said.
Tough week at W-K
It's been a somber week at W-K, following a car accident last Thursday that claimed the life of junior football player Cole Younker, and left junior Emilee Agin hospitalized in serious condition.
Agin isn't part of the volleyball program, but she used to be, and she has many friends on the team, Biever said. Younker was "the most positive, fun young man you could imagine," she added.
High school was out at W-K on Monday, so classmates could attend Younker's funeral.
There was a moment of silence at W-K's home match against Dover-Eyota on Tuesday night, and the players painted Younker's football uniform uniform number (32) on their cheeks.
"It really has brought perspective to our team," Biever said. "We all have a better understanding of what's important in life."