Coughlins, Thomas honored
by Tom Coombe
An unbeaten season resulted in a conference championship for Ely’s high school volleyball team, and all-conference recognition for three Timberwolves.
Senior McKenna Coughlin, junior Kellen Thomas and sophomore Rachel Coughlin all won spots on the All-Arrowhead Conference Team, as selected by league coaches.
The recognition comes on the heels of the program’s first-ever unbeaten season, a campaign that was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the program’s first Arrowhead Conference title.
McKenna Coughlin played a key role in that success. The Wolves’ only returning starter from teams that reached the Section 7A final four the previous two years, she led in many ways and topped the Wolves in several statistical categories including kills (144), digs (85) and ace serves (35).
The senior averaged better than 10 kills per game and was one of the top hitters in all of Section 7A.
“She is very driven and loves to share her knowledge of the game with others,” said Ely Head Coach Andrea Thomas. “McKenna is able to read the floor and knows where to place her hits and serves to capitalize on the opponent’s weaknesses.”
Kellen Thomas moved into Ely’s starting lineup this fall and made an immediate impact, racking up 56 kills, 64 digs and 22 blocks.
“Kellen was one of the most accurate passers on the team, this often went unnoticed but had a tremendous impact on how effectively our offense would run,” said Andrea Thomas. “She became a more integral part of the offense as the season progressed. She also helped us put up a solid block.”
The Wolves often took to the floor with three Coughlin sisters on the floor - senior McKenna and twin sophomores Rachel and Kate.
Rachel made an immediate impact in the Ely lineup and averaged just under 10 kills per game, finishing 113 for the season. She added 81 digs and 23 blocks as the Wolves chewed up 12 straight opponents.
“Rachel is a solid all-around player,” said Andrea Thomas. “She is a strong hitter with a heavy arm swing. She is able to adapt to sets and find a way to get the ball to hit the floor. Rachel also has a very effective jump-serve and ended the season with 24 ace serves.”
The Wolves finished atop the Arrowhead but did not get a chance at a postseason run, with the pandemic forcing the season to a halt on Nov. 20, a week prior to the end of the regular season. Ely was ranked second among 7A teams behind only fellow unbeaten Greenway.
The All-Arrowhead team also included two players from neighboring Northeast Range - Hannah Reichensperger and Maizy Sunblad.
Reichensperger, a junior, recently signed a letter of intent to attend NCAA Division I Illinois State.