PREP VOLLEYBALL ALL AREA PLAYERS OF THE YEAR: Beekman & Reiss: Sisters of smackdown

MARSHALL – It’s scary to think of the damage that could be caused by a front row featuring Marshall outside hitter Kenzie Beekman and Minneota middle hitter Taylor Reiss.

In reality, it has already happened.

Beekman and Reiss, the 2013 Independent All-Area Volleyball Players of the Year, shared a front row together last year as members of the Southwest Minnesota Junior Olympic club volleyball team.

And they haven’t stopped torturing liberos ever since.

Albeit, with separate high school teams that they led to the 2013 MSHSL Volleyball State Tournament in St. Paul.

With Beekman, Marshall won its third consecutive Class 2A state championship. Behind Reiss, Minneota placed third in Class A for the fourth straight year.

“It means a lot to me to be known as one of the best volleyball players in the area,” Reiss said. “It’s well-deserved for both Kenzie and I because she works very hard and is a great player.”

For Beekman, who was the 2012 Independent All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year, the 2013 award was her second straight as the top player.

“This kind of an award does not come because of myself because my team and our success has a lot to do with it,” Beekman said.

Reiss also honored her teammates.

“I have to give credit to teammates because they work hard to get the passed up to (Independent All-Area Volleyball First-Teamer) Megan (Larson). That allows her to set the ball to me and that gives me the opportunity to swing at the ball,” Reiss said.

Reiss said she enjoyed working on the volleyball court with Beekman.

“It was kind of hard at first because we didn’t know each other, but then, when you start playing volleyball together, you grow closer and a friendship develops,” Reiss said.

Beekman said Reiss helped her become a better volleyball player.

“Taylor is extremely good and, for me, it was easier to hit because blockers were worried about her hitting the ball,” Beekman said. “And she can put the ball down whenever she wants.”

Beekman, a senior, and Reiss, a junior, each produced eye-popping statistics in 2013.

So close were their numbers, that the Independent sports staff debated amongst itself for nearly two weeks, crunching every tidbit of volleyball data relating to them.

Here is what we discovered:

g In kills, Reiss led Beekman, 564 to 542, this year.

g Reiss improved her number of kills in 2012 by a whopping total of 78 (486 to 564) after playing in exactly the same amount of matches (35) each season.

g Beekman also had 30 more kills this season (512 to 542) after competing in only one more match in 2013 (34 to 35).

g Reiss stayed strong with 75 ace blocks in 2013 to lead the Independent area. She posted 71 ace blocks in 2012 to finish fifth.

“I wanted to work at becoming a better all-around player this season,” Reiss said. “Last season was the first year that I played in the back row and, coming into this season, I wanted to get better at that. I wanted to work on my blocking, which was a definite goal of mine.”

g Beekman, who didn’t have a spot of the all-area list in 2012, registered 49 ace blocks this year. She ended up eighth.

g In digs, Beekman, who said she wanted to become a better defender in 2013, led Reiss, 430 to 403. In reality, they both became better defenders with Beekman ending 2012 with 290 digs and Reiss concluding last season with 288.

“I had to work on defense and all aspects of the game,” Beekman said. “I really tried to focus in when we did knee and other passing drills. I really wanted to learn those fundamentals.”

g In serving, Beekman and Reiss were equally solid, with Beekman holding a slim 49 to 43 edge in aces.

Minneota head coach Stephanie Hennen

“Taylor did a lot for us. She provided a lot of offense and she played great defense,” Hennen said. “Taylor is the kind of player that elevates everyone on our team to do better. She became a very good teammate because she was willing to play as a decoy in some matches. Taylor held down blocking assignments, allowing our other hitters to become open to get their swings. She was not a captain for us, but Taylor did an excellent job of leading example on the court. She knew what needed to be done and she always went out there and took care of it.”

Marshall head coach Dan Westby was impressed with Beekman on the volleyball court and in the classroom.”

“Kenzie was our leading attacker from start to finish again this year. She extremely athletic and jumps well. She just continued to get better as our season progressed,” Westby said. “Kenzie always been considered a great attacker, but she’s worked hard to improve as a passer and as a defender as well. She’s very athletic and very explosive.

“In addition, Kenzie is an outstanding leader on our team and also in our school. She is one of the most respected students at Marshall High School,” Westby said.

Along with Beekman, Reiss and Larson, other Independent All-Area Volleyball First Team members include Marshall setter/right-side hitter Sydney Griffin, Marshall libber Hannah Bennett and Minneota outside hitter Molly Hennen.