LANSING | On the boys volleyball court, Illiana Christian outside hitter Kyle Vander Zee is a quiet leader, not one to really blow his own horn.
Off the court is another matter.
Vander Zee, a 6-foot-2 senior, has been the prototypical versatile volleyball player on a team coach Nikki Van Dyke said is full of versatility. The Vikings started the this season strong, winning 14 of their first 17 matches, and Vander Zee's statistics reflect his importance to the team. He has more than double the number of kills than the other three outside hitters on the team, and also leads the team in kill percentage. His serve-receive percentage has hovered around 90 percent all year.
"This year, he is a leader on the court," Van Dyke said. "Overall now, the kids follow his leadership off the court and is a great Christian example."
The Vikings, which have never won a boys volleyball state regional playoff tournament, appear to have the talent to reach that goal this season. The team has captured two tournament titles already this season, having won at Eisenhower earlier in the year and last weekend at the Chicago Lakefront Challenge, which included a win over perennial power St. Ignatius.
Van Dyke said Vander Zee's performance against St. Ignatius typified his importance to the squad, as he made 12 kills and added seven digs.
"He is an all-around person and an all-around player," Van Dyke said. "He is learning to jump serve, he plays the back row well and is quicker than snot there, and gets up high for us in the front court."
Vander Zee is a versatile person, in general. He was a mainstay with the basketball program, and next year, he plans to play soccer at Dordt College in Iowa. He also played in a state music competition during the volleyball season, where Van Dyke said he played French horn.
Neither Van Dyke nor Vander Zee — in his second year with the varsity — are all that surprised by the strong season the team has had this year. The Vikings have the third-best seed at the Lincoln-Way Central Regional.
"We have great team chemistry and we were excited to start this season," Vander Zee said. "We knew we could compete real well. Our passing has been top notch compared to other teams. When other teams warm up, they can bang away like us, but their passing is not as good or even getting the good serve receives we get or knowing where to be to defend a hit."
Vander Zee credited the team's passing as a key to the success the Vikings have had this season. Van Dyke said that passing and defending are a byproduct of a team whose players are able to play numerous positions, depending on what match tactics require.
"I knew their potential, it was a matter of how well they meshed as a team, with seven seniors and four juniors," said Van Dyke, in her second year as the varsity coach. "Actually, they'd rather hang out together on Friday than win a tournament. They have a blast with each other, and you can see that on the court."