When Allison Kassens was born in 1997, her cousin, Jessica Kassens, was helping Union County High School reach the volleyball state finals.
Of course it’s hard for Allison Kassens to remember anything from that year, but an easy memory was when she was an eighth-grader and made the long trip to Ferdinand to watch current juniors Carlea Handley and Bella Pavey play in the semistate in 2011.
She would soon join them.
Kassens’ presence has added to an already strong tradition.
Two Tri-Eastern Conference titles, a sectional and a regional have been added to that tradition since Kassens’ freshman year, and both came under head coach Chris Wiederhold.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player that loves to be on the court as much as Alli does, she just eats, sleeps and breathes volleyball,” Wiederhold said. “She’s always striving to get better. She’s never satisfied and I think that’s a big difference.”
Kassens is the Palladium-Item’s 2013 All-Area volleyball Player of the Year. Wiederhold is Coach of the Year.
Jennifer Martin received strong consideration for Coach of the Year honors after leading Seton Catholic to a school-record 24 wins.
Union’s Crystal Key helped the Rockets to a second straight sectional title, while Winchester’s Julie Smiley and Centerville’s Victoria Bevins helped their respective teams reach title matches, and Greg Seidner led state-ranked Lincoln to a Wayne County title.
Kassens was an all-state first team selection, led Union County with her 46.7 kill percentage, .337 hitting percentage, 89 aces, 282 digs and was second on the team with 375 kills.
Pavey and Handley both were strong considerations, too, for top player, and Kassens said that their experience from the previous run to semistate was invaluable to their success.
“I did actually travel all the way to watch them (in 2011),” Kassens said. “The people who had been on the team gave us a lot of tips to handle it and stuff so it kind of helped.
“… They told us not to let the pressure and stuff get to us from the crowd or from the fact that we were at semistate, just pretty much play to our game.”
The Patriots did that and they did it all year long. The 26-11 mark was somewhat deceiving, as Wiederhold scheduled plenty of tests, including a visit from Class 4A powerhouse New Castle, as well as plenty of weekend tournaments.
When it came to TEC play, the Patriots were more than well-tested. They also swept their way to sectional and regional championships.
“From the beginning of the season we had a feeling that it could be a special year,” Wiederhold said. “To achieve what we did — we would have loved to get further in the state tournament — (but) we’re happy with what we achieved, and to do it with that group of girls was amazing.”
The humble duo of Kassens and Wiederhold spread credit elsewhere: assistant coaches Hillary Stinson, Joe Pavey, Jenny Moster, Don Moster, and of course, the other players on the court.
“They helped me and my teammates a ton and they deserve the recognition,” Kassens said of UC’s assistants. “… Just all the help and support I had from my family and teammates and community and stuff it really helped boost us.”
Wiederhold added: “To have that support group around me, it’s a huge thing. “I don’t think it’s me being Coach of the Year. It’s the Union County program. … It’s been amazing. It’s been a heck of a year. I’m proud of the girls.”