Kevin Colley, Staff Writer
WHEELERSBURG — The rare double of 2,000-plus assists in volleyball and 1,000-plus points in girls basketball … it’s a feat that takes effective time management skills, the best multitasking abilities, and sheer talent to accomplish.It also takes a mind that isn’t afraid to lead — because as a senior leader, it takes a coach on the floor to set teammates up in the right positions to succeed.
For most teams, that’s a role that a coach can only hope to fill during the season.
Abbie Kallner, however, isn’t your normal student-athlete.
A consistent three-year starter in both lineups for head coaches Allen Perry and Dusty Spradlin, Kallner accomplished the rare feat mentioned above by handing out her 2,000th assist against West Union on Oct. 16 before knocking down the 1,000-point barrier on Jan. 4 against Minford.
For the 5-foot-6 guard, her senior year is quickly filling up with accolades that she could have only dreamed of when her high school career began.
“I never once expected my senior year to be this successful,” Kallner said. “I’m extremely blessed and am so thankful for all of the opportunities that I have been given so far. Accomplishing 1,000 points in basketball was amazing. It was an amazing night, and it really helped not knowing that I was so close. Minford is a huge game no matter what’s at stake. I’m thankful that we were able to come through and play our game even when the stakes were so high.”
Throughout her four-year career at Wheelersburg, Kallner has been rock solid, which is indicative of the amount of work she’s put forth in both sports.
Inside the volleyball program, she put up nothing less than gaudy numbers by obliterating the school’s all-time assist record, ultimately notching 2,207 assists and 626 digs while leading the Wheelersburg to an 87-15 overall record — including back-to-back regional semifinal appearances at the Division III level.
Kallner earned first-team All-SOC honors over each of the last three seasons, while earning the co-SOC II Player of the Year Award in 2018. She was also named first-team all-district and first-team All-Ohio to cap off a splendid year where the Pirates finished 26-1.
And while the girls basketball program hasn’t climbed over that mountain yet, it looks to be on the verge of doing so.
The Pirates sit at 12-3 overall with a 9-1 mark in SOC II action, which puts them in line to win a third conference title in four seasons.
The program, as a whole, has gone 58-17 during that stretch of time — which means that Kallner’s teams have accumulated a 145-32 record with her on the roster.
“I’ve been extremely blessed to have the ultimate combination out of both of my coaches and their staffs,” Kallner said. “[Allen] Perry and [Dusty] Spradlin are so dedicated to the game and to us girls. They’re always making sure that we are prepared and are definitely making sure that we are the most conditioned. But on top of that, they truly care and look out for us. Those two are more than I could’ve ever wanted in coaches, and playing for them has been so much fun. If I ever get into coaching someday, I hope that I’m even half of the coaches that they are.”
What’s also been fun, from Kallner’s perspective, is the camaraderie that each of her teammates share. She’s quick to point out that her classmates … specifically volleyball hand Adyson Rase and basketball contributor Karlie Estep … are as much a part of the Pirates’ success as anybody because of their ability to accept key roles on both squads — even if it means they aren’t receiving most of the press clippings for taking said roles on.
“Our whole senior class is close,” Kallner said. “After volleyball games, we would head over to the girls soccer games and vice versa. The same goes for basketball. The boys are always watching us and we don’t miss any of their games. My teammates have been especially special because we are all so supportive of each other and truly care about one another. Playing alongside Adyson and Karlie for the past four years has been better than I could’ve asked for. Those two are awesome senior leaders and make leading a team more fun than stressful. I truly adore all of my girls and hate that this is my last year with them.”
On the basketball court, Kallner’s ability to share the game she loves with two of her three immediate family members is crucial.
With her sister Ellie contributing to the girls soccer team in the fall, the Kallner sisters often had to dispatch their father Aaron — an assistant basketball coach at Wheelersburg — to see one sibling, while their mother Jodi saw the other.
Basketball is different. The only thing the Kallner sisters have to worry about is making sure they’re on the same page as far as the playbook is concerned.
“I will forever cherish these past two years of playing alongside Ellie,” Kallner said. “She is my best friend, and even though we do have the occasional argument, she’s the best teammate possible. Dad has coached me ever since I was little, and it’s extremely comforting to look over to the bench and get advice from him. My family and I are so close, so being with the two of them, working towards the game that I love, is nothing short of amazing.”
While most student-athletes are still trying to figure out their college destinations, Kallner has had her destiny mapped out since her junior year. The combo guard plans to join Shawnee State’s basketball program — a highly successful NAIA D-I program that needs no introduction, as its 107-16 overall record over the past four years speaks for itself.
When she arrives on campus, there will be a couple of familiar faces there to greet her. Former Waverly standout Laken Smith and Notre Dame graduate Hagen Schaefer are both integral pieces to the Bears’ roster.
“I’m so pumped for next year,” Kallner said. “I still can’t hardly wrap my head around the fact that I’ll be playing for such an awesome program. Hagen and Laken have become good friends of mine and I’m excited to get to spend the next two years with them. I’ve really gotten to know [SSU coach Jeff] Nickel better in this last year, and I am so lucky to be getting the opportunity to play for him. I really respect him and can’t wait to start working out with him again this spring.”
But first, it’s full-speed ahead toward chasing a conference title — and that, Kallner says, comes by taking things one game at a time.
“We have more SOC II games left to play, and we still need to ensure that we win the conference title outright,” Kallner said. “From the start, we’ve said that we wanted to take things one step at a time. Coach is always telling us, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day,’ and is reminding us to come in each day and give it our all. So as of right now, I’m planning on working my butt off for my teammates.”