It's hard to think of Grundy Center senior Heather Hook as anything but a setter on the volleyball court. But before she began her standout career as the Spartans' floor general, she was responsible for scoring points in other ways.
"I actually really liked hitting, but I think I was an average hitter, and I was told at a young age that I would have a better chance to be a setter in college," Hook said. "It's not a flashy position, but you see the game from a much different perspective. I really enjoy being in control of the game, too."
Hook was in complete control this past season as she helped lead the Spartans back to the State Volleyball Tournament.
T-R FILE PHOTO
Grundy Center senior setter Heather Hook has been named the 2012 Times-Republican All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year.
Her 986 assists, 76 aces and 74 blocks earned her Class 1A first-team all-state honors.
And with so many great players in the area, Hook definitely stood out as one of the best. So much that she was named 2012 Times-Republican All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year.
"That is awesome, and it feels great," Hook said. "There are so many great players that could have won this award. I am glad that I am in the conversation with all of them."
2012 Times-Republican All-Area Volleyball Team
Player of the Year - Heather Hook, Grundy Center
Coach of the Year - Darwin Sents, Grundy Center
Alarie Craven, jr., West Marshall; Lauren Mazour, sr., Marshalltown; Sam Meyers, sr., Grundy Center; Eisha Oden, sr., Marshalltown; Kayla Prosser, jr., South Hardin; Caitlyn Riese, jr., Colo-NESCO; Jade Rohach, sr., South Tama; Riley Sents, so., Grundy Center.
Morgan Bellile, sr., Marshalltown; Whitney Benson, jr., West Marshall; McKenna Hotopp, sr., West Marshall; Claire Johnson, jr., East Marshall; Miranda Smith, sr., Marshalltown; Erin Wentzien, sr., Gladbrook-Reinbeck; Jayne Wiarda, sr., AGWSR; Allison Zobel, sr., North Tama.
Riley Ackerman, sr., Grundy Center; Madi Bellile, sr., Marshalltown; Reeba Box., sr., BCLUW; Madison Eley, sr., Colo-NESCO; Shelton Hatch, so., Gladbrook-Reinbeck; Sam Holtz, jr., South Tama; Kaitlyn Nichols, sr., West Marshall; Ellen Swartz, jr., South Hardin.
It's a list that includes teammates Sam Meyers, the 2011 T-R All-Area Player of the Year, sophomore libero Riley Sents, as well as Marshalltown middle hitter Eisha Oden.
While all of those players were worthy, few impacted the game like Hook, who led her team in blocks, assists and aces, and also impacted the game with 232 digs and 152 kills.
"She is very athletic and is a great kid on and off the court, which is one of the reasons she has succeeded," Grundy Center coach Darwin Sents said. "She works hard and moves very well."
Hook will take her talents to Northern Iowa next year where she will compete to become the starting setter. But don't tell Sents that Hook wouldn't have made it as a hitter.
"I disagree with whoever told her she wouldn't have been a good hitter," he said. "Her best asset now is definitely setting, and we are glad she was our setter. But she could have been a collegiate hitter."
As a setter, Hook had to make decisions on the fly and she had to know who to give the ball to in key moments of every point, every game and every set. She has to get to passes no one else wants. And rely on quick feet to put herself in the right position.
Sometimes, being a setter works like a point guard in basketball or a quarterback on the football field. They are required to get the ball into the hands of teammates, but what happens when those teammates think they aren't getting enough touches or getting the ball enough?
"My teammates don't really complain about that stuff, but sometimes (Coach Sents) tells me to set Sam (Meyers) more," Hook said. "It takes a lot of work, and there is a lot of mental preparation. You have to know where the other team's strengths and weaknesses are, but I try my best to get everyone involved."
Coach Sents agreed that it can be tough to keep everyone happy at times, but he also knows that his Spartans have bought into the team-first mentality.
"We do everything we do for the team," he said. "Whoever is hitting the ball well needs to get the touches. She moves the ball around really well, and she finds the hot hitter."
Hook, Meyers and Riley Sents are three big reasons why the Spartans advanced to the state tournament, finished 35-7 and earned Class 1A runner-up honors.
Another reason is because of Coach Sents, who was named Times-Republican Coach of the Year after another stellar season guiding Grundy Center to wins over Class 5A state-ranked Ankeny and Class 4A state-ranked Sioux City Heelan.
"I am very thankful for that," said Coach Sents about winning the coach of the year honor. "That's just a reflection of how hard the girls work. We keep a winning tradition here, but it is easier because the kids are easy to coach and they do everything that is asked of you."
Hook is currently on the Class 1A No. 7 Grundy Center basketball team but still finds time to play volleyball when she can. She said the she and Meyers are on the same club team that practices for 2 hours every Wednesday and Sunday. She also plays in tournaments every other weekend. Her summers also involve a lot of four-day tournaments that start on Thursday and end on Sunday.
"We are both really competitive players, but we are both happy when the other finds success," Hook said of her relationship with fellow all-stater Meyers. "I have not told Sam about this yet, but I remember telling her congratulations last year so I am sure she will say the same to me."
The next step in Hook's volleyball career will take place in Cedar Falls where she will join the Panther squad in August.
After starting three and half years for the Spartans and playing in this year's Class 1A state championship match, Coach Sents has no doubt his star setter will shine at the next level.
"She is a very good blocker and can do some things at the net that make her valuable to that team," he said. "She'll be a real asset to the program. I am not sure what they plan to do this year as far as redshirting, but once she gets the chance to compete for a starting spot, she will be in the mix."
Hook plans to stay in Grundy Center throughout the summer but will work out with her future teammates in Cedar Falls often. She plans to move up to campus when preseason practice begins in early August.
"That's the good thing about being so close to home," Hook said.