It’s been a heck of a run for Lake City senior outside hitter Delaney Issendorf. For the second straight year, she has been named the Republican Eagle Volleyball Player of the Year. The recognition hasn’t ended there, however. She was named All-Hiawatha Valley League in four consecutive seasons — a remarkable achievement for a high school volleyball athlete. Oh, and she’s the all-time school record holder for career kills.
Yet none of this was unexpected to Lake City head volleyball coach Kirk Thornton when Issendorf received the call up to the varsity roster as a freshman.
“A lot of girls do a lot of really good things, Delaney does everything good. She passes well, she serves well, she's a good hitter,” he said. “When you're coaching her, a lot of times you're caught up in the moment, you're just excited to have her. But now I'm looking back and she was probably the best player that ever came out of Lake City and we’ve had some good ones in the last five years.”
High praise, but when considering the team has 58 wins since she stepped onto the court as a freshman — including a high point of 23 wins last year — it carries merit. This season the Tigers were just 8-4 in the pandemic-shortened season, but three of those losses came from Class AA No. 1-ranked Stewartville (twice) and No. 5-ranked Kasson-Mantorville.
Issendorf declined to take credit for Lake City's latest run of success though.
“Playing along these girls … our connection is just so hard to explain,” she said. “We have such a deep trust for each other, we know each other's strengths and weaknesses. The team chemistry is unbreakable, we're such great friends and we just play together so well. I absolutely love the girls that I play with.”
That chemistry wasn’t always a given during Issendorf’s early varsity days. Thornton said as a ninth grader, Issendorf was the “everything player.”
“She was our best hitter, one of our best servers — we basically ran our whole offense through her as a ninth grader,” he said. “But then some of the other girls around her started evolving too. Olivia Pennington, Hannah Labonte, Grace Bany, they started to really take off and so she didn't have to be our everything.”
Whether she had to be the “everything” or not, take a quick look at the stat sheet, the record books or the cues on the court and it was evident she still did it all for Lake City.
With her varsity career wrapped up, she eclipsed 1,000 kills Nov. 13 against Goodhue and finished with a school-record 1,032. She’s also near the top of the all-time leaderboard in other areas as well: second in games played (would have been first if the season wasn’t shortened and she stayed healthy), fourth in ace serves (132), and eighth in digs (560).
Although Issendorf said being first in kills is a big personal achievement, the accomplishments off the stat sheet are what she’ll remember most about her playing days.
“The moments at the Mayo Civic Center — my 10th grade year we were one game away from going to state and then last year against Stewartville — were absolutely incredible,” Issendorf said. “The accomplishments that the team as a whole accomplished together are always my favorite memories.”
Most programs would be concerned about the upcoming seasons after losing their star athlete, not to mention four other starting seniors. Thornton doesn’t see it that way though. The impact that Issendorf had on the program has it trending up, with or without her in the lineup. She’ll leave a legacy that’ll be impossible to forget in the years ahead.
“I just think she's a good example for the younger girls,” Thornton said. “She's going to be one that we say, ‘go up and hit the ball like Delaney did’ or, ‘we need to see more enthusiasm like Delaney had on the court.’”