SUMNER — Sumner-Fredericksburg possesses the type of 1-2 punch that can transform a high school volleyball team into a state championship contender.
Senior returning first team all-staters Jaydlin Seehase and Becca Pagel have spent another fall pummeling opposing defenders with a constant pressure.
Seehase is a 6-foot-1 University of Northern Iowa commit who has amassed 1,419 career kills and 162 blocks in four seasons, reaching the state tournament each of her first three years. Pagel is a high-flying, 5-foot-6 weapon who has tallied 721 kills in two seasons as a full-time outside hitter. She leads this year’s team with a .401 efficiency, and has committed to a strong NCAA Division II program at Winona State.
“They can both hit the ball well, they can hit off the block, they just are really smart volleyball players and know the game inside and out,” Sumner-Fredericksburg head coach Gwen Pagel said . “They’re ones that are going to make plays and make things happen. They both are competitive and good leaders.”
Growing up in rural Sumner, Seehase and Becca Pagel have competed alongside each other from little league softball through youth basketball. Yet, volleyball has been their favorite sport. They teamed up in the Six Pack 13’s club program, and will be finishing their club volleyball careers with the CIA 18’s.
As eighth graders, the duo watched when the school made its first trip to state, and they were freshman contributing in their varsity rotation when Sumner-Fredericksburg continued to build on its current streak of runs to the U.S. Cellular Center.
“When we were freshmen and moved up together, we kind of had each other’s back,” Becca Pagel said. “Now that we play the same position, it’s fun and we’ve gotten closer.”
Seehase has enjoyed the passion and enthusiasm her coach’s daughter brings to the court.
“She’s always upbeat and smiling,” Seehase said. “When someone gets a kill or makes a nice play, she goes crazy and freaks out, throws her hands in the air and has this big smile on her face. It makes you feel good about yourself.”
Pagel says she has looked up to Seehase, both literally and figuratively.
“She’s awesome,” Pagel added. “I want to be like Jaydlin. It’s so cool having someone on your high school team that is talented and so motivated.”
Pagel was a setter her freshman year and shared setting duties with Jenna Brandt as a sophomore before Brandt, an Iowa State volleyball recruit, took over setting full-time starting last season. That change allowed Pagel to concentrate more on back row passing where she’s tallied 1,252 career digs to go with 201 career service aces.
This season marks the first year of high school volleyball Seehase has played the back row, meaning her and Pagel are always on the court together. When one rotates back, the other comes to the front. They provide each other with constant feedback.
“She’s a better hitter and sees more stuff in the front row than I do,” Becca Pagel said. “And then I kind of help her in the back row on reading tips and certain hitters’ tendencies.”
In addition to Pagel, Seehase and Brandt, seniors Georgia Ackley and Hillary Oberbroeckling returned as starters from last year’s team that reached the state finals. Newcomers have also blended well into the group ranked No. 3 in Class 2A with tournament wins at New Hampton, Linn-Mar and Columbus among their 2016 season highlights.
“Some high school teams they can only rely on one person or don’t have a lot to work with,” Seehase said. “With our team everyone is very skilled and they know what to do.”
Added Becca Pagel, “We’re all very close and very good friends. We’re such good friends that sometimes we don’t want to step on each other’s toes. Sometimes we have to get over that and just step up and take charge. This group is super fun. I’m lucky to play with these girls my senior season.”
As postseason play continues, a goal of tracking down an elusive state title remains. A Western Christian program that ranks second with 14 state titles has defeated Sumner-Fredericksburg in each of the past three 2A state tournaments, twice in the semifinals, and last year in a four-set championship match that included a 28-26 final game.
“One of our dreams was to be on center court,” Becca Pagel said of last year’s finals run. “We have never done that in school history. We were happy to be there, but it wasn’t enough. We still wanted to win.”
Seehase added, “We’re very motivated. We know we left short last year. Unfinished business is our saying. We’d like to take it a step forward and win the whole thing.”
Coach Gwen Pagel knows her seniors have been strong role-models, setting an example that will continue to impact the program beyond their graduation.
“They’ve proven if you put the time in, then it will pay off,” Gwen Pagel said. “The love they have of the sport I think has trickled down to some of the younger girls whether they’re in high school or junior high.”