At 5-foot-9, Sara Bean knew her days as a middle hitter would end at the conclusion of her high school volleyball career.
So with the realization that she would be an outside hitter and back-row player in college, the Columbus East senior has made an hour-and-45-minute drive to Muncie four times a week from December through June the past three years to play with the fabled Munciana club program. It is there that she has received plenty of instruction and practice on the art of back-row play.
“I’d say half the practice is on passing and defense and serve-receive,” said Bean, this year’s Republic Athlete of the Year for Volleyball. “Your defense and serve-receive is what makes teams win. Hitters get all the credit, but it’s really the back row that makes the difference in whether a team is successful or not.”
It was Bean’s play in the front row that propelled the Olympians to one of their best seasons ever. She led the team with 407 kills and 76 blocks in earning All-State honors and leading East to a 31-5 record and Hoosier Hills Conference, sectional and regional titles.
“We had a great season,” Bean said. “It was great to break 30 (wins). It doesn’t happen all that often.”
A four-year starter, Bean played right-side hitter her first two years and middle hitter the past two years. She also played in the back row on some rotations and recorded 198 digs and 36 aces.
“Without her offense, without her leadership, I thought we were a much different team,” East coach Faith Wilder-Newland said. “She just possesses such a desire to win. She has a willingness to work hard to achieve it. She is just a winner in every sense of the word. She is willing to work as hard as it takes to win. Very few of us would do the things Sara has done.”
Bean finished her career with 973 kills, 199 blocks, 668 digs and 136 aces. She was a Junior and Senior All-Star, Academic All-State selection and a three-time All-HHC player.
“She works out hard on her own,” Wilder-Newland said. “She doesn’t have to have me on her telling her how important lifting is. She has a great jump, and it’s not because she’s tall. She works hard at it. She gets the most out of her athletic ability.”
Bean credited her parents, John and Elizabeth, with helping her get to and from Muncie during club season.
“My parents made a huge commitment,” Bean said. “Doing homework on the way there and getting sleep. I would drive sometimes, but mostly my mom made the trip last year. I can’t thank them enough.”
Bean has a scholarship offer from Marian University but likely will wait awhile before making a decision.
“I want this club season for more exposure,” Bean said. “This year for club, I’m going to be playing left side or right side because that’s probably where I’ll play in college. Basically, I’ve been out of position for several years because we’ve been short on tall people at East. I’d really like to go a D-II or a small D-I.”
“Because of her size, it’s probably going to be after some of these other people have committed that she’s going to get the most attention,” Wilder-Newland said. “She’s kind of holding off to see what comes along.”
The Republic All-Area Volleyball team:
Faith Myers, Columbus East: The junior led the Olympians with 1,008 assists and had 89 kills, 33 blocks, 225 digs and 33 aces.
Mikayla Speidel, Columbus East: The senior recorded 322 kills, 45 blocks, 134 digs and 34 aces.
Erin Mack, Columbus East: The junior led the Olympians with 45 aces and had 257 kills, 52 blocks and 137 digs.
Quin Shoultz, Columbus North: The senior led the Bull Dogs with 449 assists and had 63 kills, 17 blocks, 180 digs and 26 aces.
Lauren Gross, Hauser: The senior led the Jets with 444 kills and 105 blocks and had 70 digs and 35 aces.
Mikala Greenlee, Hauser: The senior led the Jets with 644 assists and had 26 blocks and 158 digs.
Sarah Stuckwisch, Trinity Lutheran: The senior led the Cougars with 369 kills and 198 blocks and had 27 digs and 35 aces.
Hannah Barker, Trinity Lutheran:
The senior led the Cougars with 868 assists and had 94 kills, 60 blocks, 113 digs and 77 aces.
Kyra Klosterman, Trinity Lutheran: The senior led the Cougars with 356 digs and had 25 kills and 18 aces.
Jessica Lucas, Seymour: The junior led the Owls with 957 assists and had 142 kills, 106 blocks, 202 digs and 67 aces.
Hayden Dailey, Seymour: The junior led the Owls with 313 kills and had 34 blocks, 252 digs and 48 aces.
Abbi Bryant, Edinburgh: The senior led the Lancers with 559 kills and 98 blocks and had 168 digs and 64 aces.
Brown County: Kari Barnett, Sasha Robinson. Columbus East: Courtney Ping, Carly Robertson. Columbus North: Janelle Peters, Makinsey Summa, Karen Wildemann. Edinburgh: Maile Cox, Jennifer Stinson. Hauser: Danielle Sneed, Haley Webster. Jennings County: Emily Ertel, Lucy Hearne, Mariah Kinney, Dani Kirchner. Seymour: Chandler Clark, Megan Kimbley Abby Speer, Audrey Speer, Taylor Sutton. South Decatur: Ashley Johannigman, Julia Miller. Trinity Lutheran: Mallory