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Bettendorf's Grace Erpelding (13) tries to hit over a Davenport Assumption block last week. Erpelding has averaged 8.5 kills in the Bulldogs' last two conference matches.

Jeff Cook, QUAD-CITY TIMES

The grooming process for Brandon Nau to become a head varsity baseball coach started nearly a decade ago.

After a playing career at Muscatine, Nau set a goal for himself to eventually lead his own program.

That time has come for the 28-year-old.

Pending school board approval, Bettendorf activities director Colin Wikan said Nau will be Jay Fitzgerald's successor.

The Bulldogs were 20-16 last summer and finished second in the Mississippi Athletic Conference at 12-6. Bettendorf has five starters back from that team, including its top two pitchers in Carter Bell and Luke Soko.

"There is a lot of talent coming through the program right now so it is exciting," Nau said. "I'm not taking over a rebuild. I'm stepping in expecting to have success quickly."

Nau graduated from Muscatine in 2008. After a knee injury in his freshman season at Clarke University, he has spent the past nine years working his way up the ranks.

He was an assistant coach in Bob Leech's program at Muscatine for six years and was in Pleasant Valley's program the past three seasons, including the last two as Bill Sandry's varsity assistant.

"I would not have applied if I didn't fully believe I could handle this," Nau said. "Coaching under guys like Bob Leech, Rob Wood and Coach Sandry going into this, I feel I'm prepared for the next step."

Nau is in his fourth year as a physical education teacher at Mark Twain Elementary in Bettendorf.

Nau said his big objective is to establish a connection throughout the program, from the youth levels to the varsity.

"When kids are done here, whether they go on and play in college or not, I want them to have a sense of pride in what they've done and pride in the system," Nau said. "I want the youth to feel connected to our program, the alumni to feel connected to our program.

"We want a positive message that we're all in this as one."

Erpelding excels: Grace Erpelding has flourished in the Bettendorf volleyball team's 6-2 system.

Besides leading the Bulldogs in assists, the 5-foot-6 senior has become a viable offensive option on the outside. She had nine kills in a MAC match against Muscatine two weeks ago and finished with eight in last week's sweep against Davenport Assumption.

"I like to think my vertical helps out with my lack of height," Erpelding said. "It is tough to get hands up there when you're obviously so much shorter on the outside. I do my best to work around the block."

Erpelding, a four-sport athlete, said her vertical is around 23 inches.

"She is just competitive and can jump out of the jump," Bettendorf coach Diane Lichtenberg said. "She's going to give you everything she's got every single night she's out there. She's a super young lady and a great leader for us on the court."

City meet: The Davenport city cross country meet will take place Thursday afternoon at Emeis Golf Course.

The annual meet features the three Davenport public schools — Central, North and West — along with Assumption.

Led by Julia Schumacher, Assumption won the girls title last season with 24 points. West took the boys crown, paced by individual champion Andrew Wright. Both runners are back this season.

Regional pairings: The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union plans to release its regional volleyball pairings for all five classifications either this Friday or Monday of next week.

Postseason play begins Oct. 17 for Class 1A and 2A schools, Oct. 18 for 3A, 4A and 5A programs. Regional finals are slated for Monday, Oct. 30.

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Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.