Maddy Maahs realized there was more work to be done to be able to take her game to another level.
The same goes for Maggie Furlong and Ella Koloc.
For the three standout area players who came from prep programs with championship pedigrees, making an impact at the college level as a freshman was always the goal.
“It’s been fun. During the preseason, I really had to work hard and get in the gym a lot for reps,” said Maahs, an all-state setter who helped lead Western Dubuque to the Iowa Class 4A state championship last fall and earned the Telegraph Herald’s Player of the Year honor. “Coach helped me a lot along the way. Switching from high school tempo to college, making that change, it takes a lot of practice.”
Maahs, Furlong and Koloc all start as freshmen at Coe College, which swept Loras College on Wednesday night, 25-20, 25-15, 25-16, at the Lillis Athletic & Wellness Center. Maahs delivered 31 assists and 15 digs for the Kohawks (10-3, 2-0 American Rivers Conference), while Furlong drilled six kills with five digs, and Koloc had 13 digs and four assists.
“They’re just winners,” said Coe coach DeAnn Akins, in her 17th season leading the Kohawks. “They come from winning programs and are super competitive. They’re great teammates and they really focus on doing the little things right. It’s led to their success.”
Furlong plays the pin at Coe, and her hitting prowess was refined at Galena High School under Dennis Wills. The Pirates have won numerous regional and sectional titles under his watch, and Furlong shined along the way. She entered Wednesday’s match second on the Kohawks in kills, upping her season total to 102, and earned all-tournament team honors at the UW-Whitewater Warhawk Invite last weekend.
“It’s definitely not something I expected as a freshman, though I knew it was possible,” Furlong said of starting for the Kohawks. “I guess you’re always expecting to come in and fight for your position. Which, I did do because we are surrounded by great girls on this team. I’m very grateful to have the opportunity that I have. It’s been great. I love the girls, my coach is great, and I just love it.”
Koloc, a defensive specialist, helped power West Delaware to the Class 3A state championship last fall. She’s the reigning A-R-C defensive player of the week and leads the conference with 226 digs on the season.
“Ever since last year, when you win a state title, you’re coming off a high,” Koloc said. “Earning a starting spot, that was awesome. I love the girls because they are so amazing. It boosts my confidence.
“Serve-receive is a big key and that’s honestly one of the hardest things in volleyball. Hitters at this level are just hitting a lot harder here, so that took some adjustments coming up from high school.”
Maahs’ mastery as a setter helped lead the Bobcats to the gold trophy for the first-time last year, and she’s already fine-tuning her excellence at the next level for the Kohawks — she runs the show with 441 assists on the season.
“It’s especially cool when you come play here in Dubuque and you get to see everybody from your hometown and all the schools,” said Maahs, the reigning A-R-C offensive player of the week. “To see your community here supporting you, it’s special.
“The pace of the game and realizing that in high school it was a different tempo. You’re really pushing outsides in high school, but now here we have three hitters in the front row that completely dominate the ball, so that’s fun.”
Akins has been watching Maahs for years — and that included seeing her power Western Dubuque to the state title past Waverly-Shell Rock, where her mother, EaVon Woodin, leads the program.
“It’s something I’ve watched all throughout her high school career,” Akins said. “I’ve recruited her and watched a lot of games since her freshman year. She just has an uncanny ability to read the blockers, read what the defense is doing and put her hitters in a good position. It all starts with the pass and getting the ball to her.”
Maahs’ championship-winning teammate with the Bobcats, Maddie Harris, is also a freshman with the Kohawks and sees time on the floor. Harris added 10 digs against the Duhawks (3-9, 0-2) and has 10 kills on the season.
Grace Lueken, a junior middle hitter from Dubuque Wahlert, also starts for Coe and delivered nine kills against Loras. The Kohawks’ roster includes two more local talents in Lucie Lambe (Dubuque Senior, freshman) and JoAnna Voss (West Delaware, senior).
Local volleyball talent appears to be taking a liking to the Kohawk community.
“I love the environment, and it just feels like home there,” Furlong said. “It’s a community feeling.”