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IOWA PACESETTER | AVA SCHUBERT

Iowa Pacesetter: Schubert leaves lasting impact on Assumption volleyball

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Izzy Krogman was in the back row on the left side during a recent practice. She saw teammate Ava Schubert on the opposite side of the net in the right pin position.

“When you’re there and she’s swinging line, there is no block,” Krogman said. “The ball comes at your face and it is fend for yourself.

"You do everything to protect the face."

For the past four years, Schubert has been packing quite a punch for the Davenport Assumption High School volleyball team. This week’s Iowa Pacesetter recently became the school’s career kills leader (1,253 and counting) and set the all-time mark for service aces (205 and counting).

Referred to as the team’s “Mama Bear” with a contagious personality by coach Frank Flanagan, the 6-foot-1 southpaw has been denting gym floors and leaving ball indentations on defenders since the opening match of her freshman season.

“There is something special about going up and hitting the volleyball into the ground, celebrating with teammates and screaming,” said Schubert, a Tennessee Tech University recruit. “It is an amazing feeling and rush.”

Raised in a volleyball household, Schubert has always possessed the athleticism, powerful swing and affection for the game.

Her mother, Amy, was a standout at Dubuque Wahlert and a three-time All-American at St. Ambrose University. Her father, Brian, spent a decade playing as an AA/Open USA volleyball player and was a World University Games tryout invitee in the early 1990s.

From an early age, Schubert was in a gym peppering the ball with her sisters as her parents coached the sport.

“My mom and dad are both pretty strong, so it is something I’ve acquired,” Schubert said.

Flanagan, who has a wealth of club coaching experience, said he hasn't seen too many players at the high school level hit with that kind of force.

"Ava can do it when the set is atrocious," Flanagan remarked. "That’s what makes her different."

After breaking the kills record, teammates made Schubert a congratulatory poster. It had remarks such as "You're Amazing," "Sheesh" and "Dang Girl."

Schubert deflected it as an individual accomplishment.

"There is a lot of motivation from my teammates to go after it and go get it," she said. "This has never been a single-athlete sport, always been a team sport. It has been such a good feeling to see us all grow and all have an important part on the team."

Schubert, also an all-state basketball player, has been at the forefront of Assumption’s most successful volleyball run in school history.

During her four seasons, the Knights are 110-19, have participated in three state tournaments (two semifinals) and are ranked No. 2 in Class 3A this season.

While she has been a focal point of Assumption's attack each season, with more than 3,100 attacks for her career, Schubert's role has evolved this season.

The Knights have made a concerted effort to be more balanced offensively, incorporating middles Ava Harris-Shepard and Ellah Derrer into the action along with outsides Maggie Johnson, Dru Dorsey and Annika Kotula.

With that has come fewer swings and having an expanded impact in other areas.

"Ava sees the reasons for it," Flanagan said. "In basketball, if you're going through the same person for three quarters, it gets a little more predictable by the fourth quarter when it matters.

"This actually frees her up more when we need her to score points."

Schubert is a six-rotation player.

If she is not obliterating balls or blocking in the front row, she is making a difference in the back row either as a server, passer or attacker.

"She's always on the court, so it allows her not to feel like she has to do everything and be great at everything," Flanagan said. "That's exhausting, especially by the time you get to November."

Schubert's value extends beyond the stat sheet. Her extrovert personality makes her one of the team's unquestioned leaders.

Repeatedly during Tuesday night's win over Bettendorf, she was relaying  encouraging words to her teammates in the huddle.

"I've learned that you need to know when it is time for you to speak and when it is not," she said. "It is something you have to grow into, can't learn on the spot.

"I wasn't ready for that my freshman year. I was building my leadership skills my freshman, sophomore and junior years for now my senior year."

Recently, Schubert asked to speak with Flanagan after practice. The conversation wasn't about playing time or her role on the team.

"It was, how do I help this teammate get better at their job?" Flanagan recalled. "It is really genuine, and that summarizes her as a volleyball player and person."

Flanagan has used San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich's line of thinking with Schubert. Popovich said he was hardest on Hall of Famer Tim Duncan so everybody else on the team would fall in line.

"If teammates see the best player getting away with being lazy and superstar stuff, others aren't going to respect what's going on long term with the dynamic of the team," Flanagan said. "I'm honest with her like everyone else."

Schubert leaned on Flanagan's advice when making her college decision.

Flanagan said Schubert had the opportunity to play at a Power 5 program, but relayed his experience as a player at St. Ambrose University in which he was in a competitive environment and established lifelong friends.

"Do you want a place you can truly call home and build relationships for the rest of your life, or go really big and maybe be a small fish in a big pond?" Flanagan said. "Then in two or three years, you might be in the transfer portal."

Tennessee Tech, located about 80 miles east of Nashville, provided the best of both worlds. It is a Division I program which competes in the Ohio Valley Conference, but also should give Schubert an opportunity to make an impact early in her career.

"I looked at a couple other schools, but I didn't feel the chemistry with those schools as I did Tennessee Tech," Schubert said. "Not every school is perfect and has what I want, but Tennessee Tech has everything that I want.

"It is comfortable, a loving environment and a competitive environment."

As for her legacy at Assumption, that is still being written.

While her name will be etched in the record book in multiple statistical categories, the top objective is getting that elusive state championship in early November.

"I want to win, we want to win that last game and hold up the trophy at the end," Schubert said.

Flanagan said her footprint will continue beyond this fall.

"It will come in a couple years when you see how the younger kids approach their team as leaders," he noted. "When they're under someone now that does it by example and does it with great personality, do you see fabrics of her still in the team two or three years from now?

"That will be the true effect."

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Sports Editor

Sports editor, with my emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 22 years, the last 10 at the Q-C Times.

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