WATERLOO — Hanna Nuss found a source for instant success last fall during her first season as the Waterloo Columbus volleyball program’s head coach.
The leadership attributes and skill of outside hitter Lauren McManus helped the Sailors reach the Class 3A state tournament, a feat Columbus hadn’t accomplished since 2008.
McManus put together an all-state season, leading that team with an average of 3.17 kills per set and ranking second to libero Kate Shannon with an average of 1.46 digs per set.
Beyond the physical talent, Nuss was initially struck by the combination of poise and enthusiasm McManus brought to the court.
“I just like her demeanor and competitiveness,” Nuss said. “You don’t always come upon those types of players. From the moment I stepped in and met her, you could tell she was one of those athletes you hope for your whole career.”
A University of Denver volleyball commit, McManus has embraced competition since childhood. She’s the third member of her family with plans to compete in collegiate athletics. Her older brother, James, played tennis and her older sister, Lindsay, competed in soccer at the next level.
Emulating some of the leadership and competitive traits her older siblings exhibited, McManus used the sport of volleyball to carve out her own identity.
“I’ve always looked up to them and tried to find my passion for the sport,” McManus said. “Watching my whole family compete, I always wanted to do that. My brother has his sport, my sister had her sport and I have my sport. It’s pretty cool that we all have a different sport.”
As the start of her final volleyball postseason draws near, McManus is a valuable four-year leader in No. 10-ranked Columbus’ quest to return to state. In addition to her success in volleyball, she has won a state doubles title and played on three state championship tennis teams.
“She is just so respected by everyone that no matter what she says or how she says it, everybody is going to respond,” Nuss said. “She’s the first one to go up to a player who’s struggling and kind of coach them on the court. She has an ability to keep the team on board and going. ... She always has that focus on everyone. She’s an extremely strong leader.”
Adding to the friendships she’s built on her high school team, McManus has enjoyed traveling the country with the local Six Pack and CIA club programs.
“It’s been the greatest experience of my life,” she said.
McManus has served in the back row role as a libero on her club teams, a position she plans to play in college, while she is relied on to also take swings as a full-rotation player for her high school.
“It’s different, for sure,” McManus said. “I love the high school season because I get to do both. When you’re not having the best passing day, you can have hitting to help that out. If you’re not having the best hitting day, you can pass instead.”
As McManus has seen some of her teammates take on larger roles within the attack and back row this season, Nuss likes the calming presence she provides.
“You trust her when she has the ball,” Nuss said. “We play her all the way around just because of her sense of the court and what’s open.”
As for her back row work, Nuss added. “She just sees it. There’s no way to coach a kid to just respond to the ball the way she does.”
Through a challenging conference and weekend tournament schedule, Columbus appears to be hitting its stride in recent weeks. The Sailors made a strong run into the finals of their own tournament two weeks ago before earning tournament wins over 3A’s No. 6 Assumption and 4A’s No. 4 Xavier last weekend.
“I think we worried too much in the beginning of the season,” McManus added. “We’ve really relaxed and tried to get the job done. ... Volleyball has become a place for our whole team where we can have no stress and just be together as friends.
“That’s how we’re successful. It’s not one person doing the job. It’s six people plus everyone on the bench.”