A year ago, Rylee Serpan (FR/Spring Hill, Kan.) was playing and dominating volleyball matches as a member of the Spring Hill High School team – her powerful left arm producing a plethora of kills and making life miserable for the Broncos' opponents.
Fast forward 12 months and Serpan is doing the same thing but at different venues and a much different level.
Serpan pounded home 13 kills on a sizzling .435 hitting percentage in leading Kansas Wesleyan to a 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 25-9) Kansas Conference victory over York inside Mabee Arena on Wednesday night. The victory was the eighth in a row for KWU, which improved to 15-4 overall and 2-0 in the KCAC.
Serpan has been a welcome addition to a veteran Coyote team that features other notable front row bombers – seniors Elizabeth Hardacre (SR/Kensington, Kan.), Maddy Beckett (SR/Halstead, Kan.) and Morgan Bryand (SR/Wichita, Kan.).
"My connection with my setters and all the seniors on the team is just really amazing," said Serpan, who plays right side. "I'd known them for a couple years before I even came here and I think we just mesh really well. All our energy goes really well together and we have a great time on the court."
That was certainly the case Wednesday. After a sluggish start the Coyotes found their collective hitting stroke and hit .287 for the match. Hardacre finished with 10 kills while at a .471 percentage, Beckett had nine kills and Bryand eight.
Serpan said she's thrilled to be playing a significant role on a veteran team with so many talented older teammates.
"They're really big hitters to look up to, they're role models in my life and I just really hope I'll be as good as that one day," she said. "I feel honored and blessed to be on this team and I just can't wait for the rest of the season."
Serpan has impressed her coach, Jessica Biegert.
"She doesn't act like a freshman, doesn't play like a freshman – she looks so natural out there," Biegert said. "She's stepping up to the level in energy and the skill. She's done a really good job.
"She committed pretty early so just watching her develop her senior year was huge and exciting. Then once she was here on campus she just exploded even more."
Hitting with her left hand gives Serpan an advantage according to her coach.
"She has been a right side lefty and has a lot of angles," Biegert said. "If you're a right-handed person on the right you pretty much have one angle so she's a force that's hard to read. She's big and powerful, her arm swing is huge. She reaches over people."
The Coyotes led the first set 22-15 but York (2-11, 0-1) battled back and got within 22-20. The Panthers narrowed the deficit to 23-22 and 24-23 before Hardacre's match point kill ended the suspense.
"We kind of played the high and low game the first set tonight and then once we got on them, they bounced right out of it," Biegert said. "It was good to see how fast they adjusted."
Tied 12-12 in the second set the Coyotes took control with a 9-1 run and cruised to the victory.
The third set was a rout as KWU scored the first nine points and later scored seven in a row.
"I'm just very proud how balanced we are," Biegert said. "We have lots of options on that front row, we have defenders that can pick up any ball or defense. (Libero) Kelsey (Hund) came in and learned right away and how to run with it."
"We just had a lot of energy on the bench and on the court," Serpan said. "Setters connected really well, hitters just swung away and if they made a mistake they just swung way again and our blocks were very big. We finally started just getting it done."
Josie Deckinger (JR/Wichita, Kan.) set the attack with 33 assists. Defensively Hund had a team-best 23 digs and KWU recorded eight block assists – Hardacre with three. York hit just .091 percent for the match.
Next up is a non-conference match against the rival Bethany Swedes on Friday in Lindsborg. First serve is 7 p.m. inside Hahn Gymnasium.