Former Ottumwa volleyball standout Kayla Wagner has continued to be a dominant presence at the net since her august volleyball career at Ottumwa High School came to an end in 2008.
After a stellar senior season with the Bulldogs, Wagner packed up her things and took her talents to Upper Iowa University in Fayette, where she has led her team in blocks in two — she had the second most blocks as a freshman — of her first three seasons with the Peacocks.
Wagner has been a regular for the Peacocks since her freshman year; a year that saw her record 96 blocks and 196 kills. Her breakout match came against St. Cloud State where she recorded a season-high 14 kills.
According to Upper Iowa’s website, Wagner went on to lead her team in blocks as a sophomore (she had 91). In addition, the Ottumwa graduate had a spectacular match against Northern State, finishing with a career-high 15 kills. She also tallied a season-best eight blocks against Minnesota Duluth.
Wagner made some big strides her junior season, shattering her previous two seasons with a team-high 132 blocks and finishing fourth on the team in kills with 173. According to the Upper Iowa website, Wagner also recorded a career high 11 blocks in three matches.
But Wagner saved her best athletic feats for senior season. The 6-2 middle hitter is ranked sixth in the NCAA and first in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference in blocks with 1.39 per set.
“I feel like my blocking has improved,” Wagner said.
She said she’s always heard, “when you get older, you play smarter.” Wagner can now vouch for the aptness of that statement.
Her stellar season earned her a spot on the NSIC all-conference second team. The Peacocks’ record currently sits at 15-12. They boast an impressive 9-3 record at home and a 9-9 record in conference play.
The last four years have been an enjoyable ride for Wagner and she’s not ready for it to end.
“I will miss playing for my teammates,” she said. “I will miss everything. It’s sad, I don’t want to graduate.”
Those teammates Wagner will miss were the main reason she decided Upper Iowa would be a good fit for her.
“They were really welcoming and friendly and I just wanted to be a part of that,” Wagner said.
Wagner isn’t the only person in the area playing for the Peacocks. The Fairfield native Maryn Fulton also is in her senior season with the Peacocks. Fulton also plays middle hitter for Upper Iowa.
With the end of her season drawing near, Wagner wants to make her swan song a successful one. But turning her wish into a reality won’t be an easy task. The Peacocks play host to No. 16 Wayne State today and they face Augustana in their season finale Saturday.
“The perfect way [to end the season] would be to beat those teams and go to the conference tournament,” Wagner said.
Wagner said the main difference between playing high school and playing college volleyball is the level of competition and the amount of dedication involved.
“It’s [college] so much more time- consuming,” she said. “It’s all year round. We don’t really get a break. It’s so much more competitive. ...So much more training and coaching.”
During the days when she donned a Bulldog uniform, Wagner led the Ottumwa volleyball team to three conference championships. As a senior, Wagner led the Bulldogs with 220 kills and 67 blocks. Her athletic exploits got her named to the CIML Metro all-conference first team and earned her the honor of being named the 2009 Outstanding Female Athlete of the year.