Anna Nyberg’s physical abilities on the volleyball court were a known quantity coming into this fall.
The 6-foot-1 outside hitter had shown that she could seemingly jump out of the gym and a powerful right arm that could hammer the ball back at the opposing teams.
The biggest unknown was how she would handle being a captain in her sophomore season and the responsibilities it would carry for a young team that had graduated a solid core of seniors.
Nyberg handled the challenge by positing 660 kills, 454 digs and helping Tomahawk reach the WIAA state tournament for the fourth straight year.
“Last year playing with the leadership of those seniors taught me a lot about being a good leader,” Nyberg said. “I knew more was going to be required of me this year. Even though our varsity team was young, we’ve all been playing together. Young players have always been around older kids, so coming together at the beginning of the season was not a difficult hurdle to get over.”
For her accomplishments, Nyberg has been selected as the Gannett Central Wisconsin Media’s volleyball player of the year after a fall in which a strong case could be made for Tiffany Stargardt, who showed all-around leadership for Marshfield, or Newman Catholic middle hitter Abby Brown, who played bigger than her 5-foot-6 fram. Then there is the Merrill trio junior Renee Sladek and seniors Lindsay Krueger and Bri Piepenbrok who helped the Bluejays reach the WIAA state tournament for the first time in 30 years.
Merrill’s Stephanie Nelson is the top coach with strong consideration to Newman Catholic’s Betty Lange, who led the Cardinals to the Division 4 state championship game.
Nyberg was an unanimous all-Great Northern Conference selection, and a third-team all-state pick in a season in a season in which she presented matchup problems for her opponents.
“The first thing is her vertical lift. Being 6-0, 6-1 with a 30 inch vertical is deadly,” Medford coach Dave Vaara said. “We would try and triple-block her a few times but she would still score.
“We could make hay when she was in the back row and score some points, but then Tomahawk would set her up in the middle block and she would hammer there.”
Tomahawk assistant coach Amanda Charles said Nyberg is her toughest critic.
“She expects a lot of herself and gets disappointed when she doesn’t have the perfect pass or she doesn’t hit the spot we give her. She is always striving to become a better player,” Charles said. “Lots of younger girls in the program look up Anna because of what she has accomplished at a young age. It inspires them to become better and work hard.”
Nyberg went less than two weeks without playing volleyball between her freshman and sophomore years , either through club, camps or open gyms. It will probably be the same case going into her junior year.
“I think I need to work on a lot of things, such as getting stronger, quicker, working on a harder serve and being a better defensive player,” Nyberg said. “I have always felt that every year is an opportunity to improve and get better.”