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Ruby Kappeler

Durant senior Ruby Kappeler serves the ball against Monticello on Tuesday at Durant High School. 

DURANT, Iowa − Ruby Kappeler's 2,060 career assists offer a little insight into how talented of a volleyball player she is.

Her demeanor during matches shows another side of the Durant setter that goes missing in the statistics. 

Moments after recording a team-high 16 assists and seven digs in Durant's opening win of the River Valley Conference tournament against Monticello on Tuesday, Kappeler met fellow Durant setter Meg Koenig and coach Mark Lau in the bleachers to discuss the game plan for the next match against Cascade.

"I wanted to make sure that our setting group was understanding what we were looking to attempt this last round," Lau said. "We wanted to run our offense a little bit more through the middle, making sure that again if and when I thought it was going to be a match we could have Meg getting some setting opportunities, making sure that both setters were on the same page and knowing why we're making the changes that we are. Setting up for this year but also for next year.

"They're doing a great job being teammates, even though they're competing for time on the court."

An hour and a half later, Kappeler watched from the sideline as Koenig filled the role that the four-year varsity starter had become so accustomed to. 

But instead of sulking over lost playing time, Kappeler could be seen cheering on her teammates to a 21-18 victory in the second game against Cascade and securing Durant's spot among the final eight teams that will be vying for a conference tournament title Thursday in Tipton.  

This season has been a memorable one for Kappeler, who had 48 assists and 24 digs in Durant's thrilling five-set victory at Wilton on Sept. 25, snapping a six-match losing streak against its rival. Less than two weeks later, she recorded her 2,000 career assist at Durant's home tournament.

"Starting my freshman year was a lot of pressure, and then coming in this year knowing that I would reach that goal pretty easily ... it means a lot to me," Kappeler said of the milestone. 

Kappeler has been a cornerstone of the turnaround for a Durant program that finished four games under .500 in 2016 and seven games under .500 last season but is now 23-7 and winners in 14 of its last 17 contests.  

"I think our connection's a lot better this year," said Kappeler, who has been playing with several of her teammates since she was 10. "With a new coach coming in, I think he's helped a lot with that, too, getting to know us as players and really pushing us to do our best."

Kappeler has steadily improved since her freshman season, with her assists per set increasing from 3.42 her first year to 6.54 as a sophomore, 7.11 as a junior and 7.68 this season. 

"I can't say enough good pronouns and adjectives about who (Kappeler) is and what she's meant on the court in terms of just a true leader," Lau said. "Her level of play has earned her that opportunity to be on the court for four years, and she consistently surprises me with her maturity on the court. When I'm asking her to run a play that she's not totally comfortable with, she doesn't really question why in the moment, she listens, she trusts me and we're going to continue to work well together.

"Super Ruby fan, and I think that she's still a kiddo who's getting better."

It doesn't hurt having another setter, Koenig, who is a junior, pushing her for playing time every day in practice. 

"Meg has kind of been in the quote on quote shadows, but she's a valuable member to the team," Lau said. "Ruby's not going to be as good as she is if she doesn't have another setter pushing her every single day in a practice environment. The girls work well together, they actually care about each other's success, and knowing that makes the team more successful. It's fun when you have a group of kids who can be competitors individually but care about the girl next to her, too." 

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