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Friday, Aug. 26, 2016

Duo was driving force for Scott City

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Volleyball Players of the Year: Katie Hogan and Mikah Simpson * Scott City
Separately, Mikah Simpson and Katie Hogan would undeniably be the stars of their own team.

They each do everything on the volleyball court at the highest possible level they can reach, all while being the all-important squad leader on the floor.

Thankfully for the Scott City Lady Rams, the two seniors have been together, on the same team, ever since the sixth grade.

They've played on the same club teams, they've experienced tough and unexpected losses, they've hoisted a state championship together, and now, because of their exceptional play during the 2011 volleyball season, they are sharing the 2011 Standard Democrat Co-Volleyball Players of the Year award.

"I feel very blessed to have been able to coach both of them," Scott City volleyball coach Erin Hoffman said. "I've been in the area for a long time and I knew of them. It was very exciting to be able to coach them, even if it was for just one year.

"I know they are both going to have very successful volleyball careers ahead of them."

For both Simpson and Hogan, volleyball has been a huge chunk of their high school days. For the last two years, especially this season as seniors, Simpson and Hogan have been two of the best at their craft this side of the state.

Although the Rams have a number of different options to choose from on the floor, Hogan and Simpson were the driving force behind their dominant, undefeated regular season this year.

"I had a blast this season," Simpson said. "It was the most fun I've ever had with the team. We all got along the whole season which was great and going undefeated was crazy. It was one of those things that nobody really talked about but we all knew what was happening."

Deadly Tandem

Although they are each a force on their own, the way Simpson and Hogan fed off each other and utilized each others' strengths, made it nearly impossible for opposing teams to defend them both.

They each have the ability to spike the ball through, around or off a defense with thunderous power as well as dip, dive and leap for any ball on defense.

"We knew that if one of us got down, we could pick each other up," Simpson said about them playing together. "I fed off Katie all the time. We rely on each other."

It's their numerous games of volleyball they've played together over the course of their lives that have them each in such tune with each other. They each know where they are at on the floor and know what each is capable of doing.

"We can anticipate where someone is going to hit so we know where we need to be," Hogan said about working with Simpson. "We compliment each other."

Together, they totaled 547 kills and 132 blocks solidifying their dominance around the net.

Mikah Simpson

If Simpson was asked what she thinks her strengths on the court are, it wouldn't be her ultimate swinging power or her blocking prowess. It would be an element not so seldom praised by the casual fan.

"I really think that defense has become one of my top skills," she said. "I've worked really hard on it and I've come to enjoy it more than any part of the game. I also feel I can adjust well. I've learned to read the floor a lot better."

Although she has more of a front row persona about her, the 5-7 senior seems to be able to do any and everything when it comes to roles on the court.

Her court-vision and ability to read plays has her a step ahead in most situations. Couple that with a pure love for the game she's playing, and it makes for an exciting display to watch.

"She absolutely loves the game," Hoffman said about Simpson. "She was very coachable and wouldn't leave the gym until she got it right. She has an excellent work ethic. She wanted to always be first. It's not that she wanted to do that in a greedy way, she wanted to do that in a role model way."

Simpson finished the season with 218 kills, 53 total blocks and led the team with 60 aces. She also led the Lady Rams with 218 digs and 299 serve receives with just nine errors.

"She's an awesome player," Hogan said about Simpson. "She never quits. If she can't get something right, instead of leaving practice and trying the next day, she'll stay after until she gets it right."

Katie Hogan

To some, Hogan is simply good at what she does because she towers above the competition in her 6-2 frame.

Hogan is anything but 'just the tall girl.'

"I hope they don't have that perception of me because when most people see someone tall they think they are uncoordinated, slow or no good," Hogan said about that stigma. "I love to prove people wrong."

Like Simpson, Hogan does it all. She rules the net by her own authority while emulating a brick wall when defending it. She defends the back row like a libero would with cat-like speed and reflexes, which are unusual for a taller player.

"A lot of the time, teams will hit it to me in the back row because they think I'm too tall to move around or can't pass compared to the libero," Hogan said.

And although most fans see Hogan swing as hard as she can while trying for a kill, there's more to it.

"A lot of times, whenever I go up to swing I go up to place it," Hogan said. "I don't just try and hit it as hard as I can. I'll swing for a deep corner or a really hard angle. It mixes up the defense and keeps them on their toes. Whenever that really hard hit comes, they're waiting for a tip or something like that."

Both Hoffman and Simpson agreed that Hogan's best trait is that she isn't afraid to face anyone. Which makes her physical presence that much more intimidating.

"She's very aggressive and doesn't back down to anyone," Hoffman said. "I think that's a big deal as far as her intimidation factor if their happened to be another player on the other side of the net, she still wouldn't back away. She'd just go after it."

"I'm intimidated by her and I've been her teammate for six years," Simpson joked. "She goes to kill every time."

Success, Heartache and the Future

Although they have experienced everything from devastating losses to being on top of the Class 2 volleyball mountain, Simpson and Hogan wouldn't trade their days with the Lady Rams for anything.

Sure, they wished their senior season wouldn't have ended prematurely in the sectional round, especially since they were favored to make another run at a state title.

"I wish it would have ended different," said Simpson. "But, it was fun while it lasted. I wouldn't have traded it for anything. Getting to play varsity all four years through high school was great."

"I know that we worked really hard," Hogan said about their senior season. "We'd come in early for practice and work our butts off. We didn't get the result we wanted to, but we know that we gave it our all and we bonding together as a team."

Since they have been through most every emotion and experience when it comes to playing high school volleyball, they were able to use those occurrences to be team leaders.

They also learned from the senior-heavy group before them that included Simpson's older sister, Brooke.

"During my sophomore year, we didn't really have to lead on the floor because all the seniors were leaders," Simpson said. "But, we knew after that year we had to step up and learn how to lead."

"They were really good for keeping the whole team going and focused," Hoffman said. "They showed great leadership and we relied on them a lot."

Hoffman, who ended her first year with the Lady Rams with a 30-1-1 record, knew just what type of team she was inheriting. Most importantly, she knew what kind of players she would be working with.

"Coming in here, I knew they had a lot of talent," Hoffman said. "The girls really took to me well. They worked hard and, sometimes, when a new coach comes in to try and teach them new things, some girls don't like that. But, they took to me well and they listened.

"Mikah and Katie were a big part of that, but all of my seniors took it in stride."

Both are still weighing their options when it comes to college. They are continuing their search for what school fits them best, but they both plan to play volleyball where ever they decide to land.

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