STATE: Oakland-Craig vs Hastings St. Cecilia

Bailey Helzer of Oakland-Craig hits the ball past blockers Lindsey Parr and Adeline Kirkegaard of Hastings St. Cecilia

For the third straight year, Oakland-Craig outside hitter Bailey Helzer is a member of the Norfolk Daily News’ Class C Elite Eight. And along with that distinction, the 5-foot-11-inch Knight senior also has been selected as the honorary captain for Class C1 and C2 players in the Daily News coverage area.

Helzer, who a year from now will be suiting up for Arkansas State, led Oakland-Craig to the state tournament for the first time in 29 years and then guided the Knights to the Class C2 state championship with victories on the big stage over Hastings St. Cecilia, Superior and Sutton.

Helzer filled up the stat sheet night in and night out, accumulating 467 kills, 41 aces and 46 blocks. Her coach, Becky Rennerfeldt, said in addition to being a great player, Helzer also led her young team by example.

“Bailey’s stats speak for themselves on what she did for our team this year,” Rennerfeldt said. “However, stats aside, it was her leadership on and off the court that made Bailey’s senior year different from the rest. She organized film sessions over lunch with the team, discussing the upcoming opponents. The rest of our team rose to Bailey’s level of intenseness and responded to her leadership in a positive way.”

Helzer is one of four seniors are this year’s team. Sophia Hass of Guardian Angels Central Catholic, Lindsey Kneifl of Wisner-Pilger and Paytyn Taake of Battle Creek are the others. Juniors Kaitlyn Emanuel of North Bend Central and Brielle Unseld of Pierce, along with sophomores Chloe Hanel of Clarkson/Leigh and Avery Yosten of Norfolk Catholic, round out the squad.

Helzer is the lone returnee from last year’s Class C first team. Taake made the top squad two years ago as a sophomore but was honored as a member of the second team last year. Another senior, Kiara Krusemark of Wayne, was a member of the Elite Eight following her sophomore and junior campaigns but is part of the second team this year.

Hanel and Hass joined Taake on the second team last year while the other four — Emanuel, Kneifl, Unseld and Yosten — all made the giant leap from honorable mention a year ago to first team this year.

All-area honors are determined by nominations from the players’ coaches, recommendations by opponents’ coaches, statistics and observations.

Kaitlyn Emanuel, North Bend Central

Grade: Junior. Height: 5-11. Position: Middle. Statistics: 330 kills, 32 aces, 261 digs, 99 blocks. Coach Amy Sterup: “Kaitlyn is a junior and has started all three years. She is a force to be reckoned with in the front row and doesn’t let much drop in the back row. She was a captain this year for us. On and off the court, she is a leader and an outstanding athlete.”

Chloe Hanel, Clarkson/Leigh

Grade: Sophomore. Height: 6-0. Position: Middle. Statistics: 396 kills, 101 blocks, 363 digs, 39 aces. Coach Becky Schneider: “Chloe is a two-year starter and simply a phenomenal athlete. You would never guess she was a sophomore because she plays at such a high level and brings so much power and experience. The played hard in the back court and didn’t miss a beat in the front. She read the court well and just knew how to make plays.”

Sophia Hass, Guardian Angels Central Catholic

Grade: Senior. Height: 5-7. Position: Outside. Statistics: 344 kills, 29 aces, 32 blocks, 461 digs. Coach Kate Hagemann: “Sophia is a four-year starter and two-year captain for the Bluejays. She was often our go-to attacker in the front row, but probably her best quality was her relentless defense in the back row. She was a six-rotation player who could impact the game in a variety of ways.”

Lindsey Kneifl, Wisner-Pilger

Grade: Senior. Height: 5-8. Position: Middle. Statistics: 313 kills, 34 aces, 37 blocks, 147 digs. Coach Kay Raabe: “Lindsey is an all-around team leader. She is extremely coachable and is always looking for a way to score. She is a workhorse in practice. Lindsey was on the NSAA Class C2 all-state tournament team.”

Paytyn Taake, Battle Creek

Grade: Senior. Height: 5-5. Position: Libero. Statistics: 671 digs, 426 serve receives, 31 aces, 61 set assists. Coach Cody Wintz: “Paytyn set single-game, season and career records at Battle Creek for digs. At a position that doesn’t always get the headlines, she made plays for us all season long that kept rallies going. Paytyn covered our hitters extremely well. She embraced the libero position and was a joy to watch play.”

Brielle Unseld, Pierce

Grade: Junior. Height: 5-8. Position: Setter. Statistics: 906 set assists, 184 digs, 25 kills, 43 blocks. Coach Zach Weber: “Brielle is a junior and three-year starter for us at the setter position. In addition to her on-court talent, she has a very high volleyball IQ and leads our offense extremely well. She is also an excellent offseason player who never misses workouts and always finds time to do more than expected of her. Her leadership and positivity have been incredibly impactful for our team.”

Avery Yosten, Norfolk Catholic

Grade: Sophomore. Height: 6-1. Position: Middle. Statistics: 302 kills, 236 digs, 92 blocks, 480 serve receives. Coach Michaela Bellar: “Avery had a really big role for us as a sophomore. Not only did she play all six rotations this year, she also was our leader and brought energy to our team. Avery’s competitiveness and hard work is the reason why she led our team in kills and blocks.”

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