By Jennifer Eisenbart

Sports editor

Even though Sara Busalacchi was new to Union Grove Union High School and its volleyball team this year, you can’t say she didn’t do her homework.

“The week after I got hired, I called the athletic director (David Pettit) and asked  who the captain was going to be.

“He gave me her name and telephone number.”

“Her” is one Kassidy Jo – or just Jo – Wilks, four-year varsity starter and a volleyball phenom for the Broncos every year.

And as soon as Busalacchi met with the senior, she knew she had something special.

“Her maturity was very evident,” the coach said. “Her knowledge of the game was extraordinary.”

And while the Wisconsin Volleyball Coaches Association never quite caught on – Wilks was named honorable mention as both a junior and a senior – Wilks earned her second consecutive All-Area Player of the Year award from Southern Lakes Newspapers.

Wilks established herself as a setter her freshman year for the Broncos, playing behind experienced upperclassmen. By her sophomore year, though, she was the team’s top setter, and the last two years, she was not just the team’s setter, but the team leader.

As a senior, Busalacchi saw Wilks get more and more comfortable on the court – challenging her teammates, challenging bad calls, and challenging herself.

“Her view on what it meant to be a part of the team … it was profound the first time I met her,” the coach said. “She basically said, ‘I want to win, I know we can win, and I want us to be the best team we can be.’”

Wilks went on to lead the Broncos to their first win over Westosha since 1985, and a second-place finish (behind Division 1 state champion Burlington) in the Southern Lakes Conference.

The Broncos also made the sectional semifinals before falling to West Allis Hale in a frustrating four-set match. The Broncos were without senior middle hitter Bailey Johnson for most of the match because of an ankle injury, and Wilks saw it impact the team.

“I think it would’ve helped a lot with how we played,” Wilks said. “I think we still could’ve won with the people that we had.

“We wanted to get to state,” she added. “We just came up short.”

She finished the season with 911 assists, 170 kills, 75 service aces and 265 digs.

Now Wilks is ready to leave high school volleyball behind. She will head for Furman University in South Carolina next fall, where Busalacchi expects her to make an immediate impact.

“I think she’s going to step into that college having to prove herself,” Busalacchi said. “I think she’ll do that the first practice.

“I don’t think she’ll be that freshman new girl on the team.”

Wilks, for her part, is just anxious for the next step.

“I am so excited. I can’t wait to go play with them,” she said. “I can’t wait to be out there.”

Wilks said she is expected to start right away.

“Hopefully, I can make an impact there.”

Other members of the All-Area volleyball team are as follows:


First team

Ciara Capezio, jr., Burlington High School: The junior outside hitter could have chosen to have knee surgery in October after a partial tear in her meniscus during a tournament.

Instead, Capezio got clearance, got a brace – and played some of her best volleyball as the Demons won the WIAA Division 1 state title. She finished the season with 497 kills – 55 of which came in the state tournament.

“Ciara’s offensive ability is often unmatched,” said co-head coach Teri Leach. “Her ability to take over the match helped us win many matches this year.

“She is a true six-rotation outside hitter,” added Leach. Capezio also had 179 digs and 39 aces, and was a second-team All-State selection.

Katie Drohner, sr., Burlington High School: While BHS’s junior class drew much of the attention this year, the senior class at Burlington quietly got the job done.

Drohner, a starter at middle hitter since her freshman year, finished with 281 kills on the year, but hit .408 on the season and had 61 solo blocks.

In the state championship game, Drohner had 10 kills on 18 attempts with no errors. She was a third-team All-State pick.

“Katie tends to fly under the radar sometimes,” Leach said. “However, her hitting percentage speaks volumes about her abilities. She finds ways to score and her athletic abilities give her a chance to get off the ground so quickly and get a kill before opposing middles can get a solid block on her.”

Morganne Longoria, jr., Burlington High School: Longoria’s defensive abilities were finally recognized following the state tournament, as the junior was named to the All-State third team.

As the team’s libero, Longoria finished with 436 digs, 83 service aces and received serve at a 2.4 out of 3.0 rating.

“Morganne is truly one of the toughest competitors that I have ever coached,” Leach said. “She has a true love for the game and it shows in the way she plays the game.

“She brings a relentless defensive pursuit that matches her consistent serve-receive abilities.”

Kaysie Shebeneck, jr., Burlington High School: Shebeneck made a strong case for being named the best in the area, making the WVCA All-State first team after leading the Demons in the run to the Division 1 crown. She was also named to the Division 1 All-Tournament team at state.

She finished the year with 788 assists and 131 kills in spite of missing time following a car accident early in the season. Shebeneck was not back at full strength until the postseason – where she dominated.

“Kaysie is an impact player regardless of whether she is setting or hitting,” Leach said. “She is a very physical player, probably the best blocker in the state. She plays with a lot of passion and love for the sport.”

Shebeneck added 41 solo blocks and 92 digs as well for BHS.

Maggie Smith, jr., Catholic Central High School: Catholic Central’s most powerful hitter, Smith also revealed her ability to play back row this year when needed.

“We expanded Maggie’s role this year both offensively and defensively,” said CCHS coach MaeMae Oberhofer. “She did a great job carrying the extra load.”

Smith led the Lady Toppers with 393 kills, and served with 95 percent accuracy with 56 aces.

The junior also had 78 solo blocks and 38 block assists.

“What can I say?” Oberhofer added. “Maggie is just straight-up fun to watch.”

Megan Wadsworth, so., Catholic Central High School: Just a sophomore, Wadsworth continued to evolve as a player this year, adding another layer of depth for Catholic Central on both offense and defense.

Playing all six rotations, Wadsworth finished with 370 kills, but also 88 solo blocks and 28 block assists. She also had 43 service aces and 113 digs.

“When you watch Megan play, it is hard to believe she is only a sophomore,” said Oberhofer. “Megan’s versatility and athletic ability allows her to play anywhere on the court.

“Her explosiveness also allows her to put up a huge block.”


Second team

Kelly Gould, jr., Catholic Central High School: Gould started as Catholic Central’s solo setter for the second year in a row, and proved a valuable asset for the Lady Toppers.

She finished with 1,175 assists, but was also a force blocking (40 solos, 45 block assists) and on defense (210 digs). She added 53 service aces.

“Kelly was our quarterback on the floor,” Oberhofer said.

Emma Ketterhagen, sr., Burlington High School: BHS’s other middle hitter, Ketterhagen gave BHS another option at the net, finishing with 164 kills, 50 solo blocks and 29 block assists.

“Emma is a hard-working, aggressive competitor,” Leach said. “She has a great volleyball IQ and is not afraid to use it.”

Savannah Kohlhagen, fr., Union Grove Union High School: The biggest compliment Busalacchi could pay her freshman all-rotation player?

She never played like a freshman. She finished the year with 319 kills and 281 digs.

“She just exudes volleyball,” Busalacchi said. “Volleyball is her sport. That is her focus.”

Ashley Olsen, jr., Union Grove Union High School: In spite of missing the first third of the season, Olsen proved her worth by becoming the biggest hitter on the Union Grove team.

“She was our power hitter,” said Busalacchi. “She’s the hardest hit when she connects.”

Olsen finished with 163 kills.

Casey Roberts, sr., Burlington High School: Originally expected to be the second setter in a 6-2 (two-setter) format, Roberts found herself setting a 5-1 (single setter) part of the season with Shebeneck out injured.

She finished with 512 assists and 55 digs.

“She is a hard-working athlete who has always relentlessly pursued improvement,” Leach said. “She played very consistent defense and was incredibly smart with her setting choices.”

Britte Schneider, sr., Catholic Central High School: Schneider did a little bit of everything this year for the CCHS squad – including being named to the All-Tournament team for Division 4 at state.

She finished the year with 146 kills and 236 digs, playing all six rotations for the Lady Toppers.

“This year, I challenged Britte to play all six rotations for us,” said Oberhofer. “A challenge she accepted and met completely.”

Bekah Shellberg, sr., Catholic Central High School: The team’s libero for the third straight year, Shellberg had 554 digs, but also 60 service aces and a 97 percent serve rating.

She also was named to the All-Tournament team at state.

“Bekah has turned into a libero which any coach would love to have on their team,” Oberhofer said.


Honorable mention

Amanda Koenen, sr., Catholic Central High School; Bridget Vos, sr., Burlington High School; Aly Ashburn, Waterford Union High School; Bekah Raebel, Waterford Union High School; Cassidy Robers, Burlington High School; Ali Hocking, sr., Catholic Central High School.