Casey Christensen leads on and off the court
ST. PAUL -- While there still may be ice underneath the volleyball floor in the Xcel Center this weekend, but there is nothing cold about Windom senior Casey Christensen's game.
Along with fellow teammates Megan Ysker and Malori Paplow, Christensen was named to the All-State team as a middle earlier in the week, and has helped guide the Eagles to a 30-2 record and a spot in the state semifinals.
However, even in a venue like the Xcel Center, Christensen could feel the nerves.
"I think maybe the nerves got to me a little bit; I struggled a little bit in the beginning," Christensen said. "Once I got used to the surroundings, it got a little better."
Windom swept Wheaton in the opening round of the Class A tournament behind solid play from Christensen on both sides of the ball.
"I think the All-State honor was very deserving," Windom head coach Ron Wendorff said. "She's a very solid player for us, and she was the difference maker for us as far as the Wheaton girl goes. She just took over the match against Wheaton's best middle."
Wheaton's Sarah Hoppe, a 6-1 middle, was held to just one kill.
For the Eagles, the very first play of the game set the tone.
"She (Casey) went up and whiffed at it; it was almost a complete miss," Wendorff said. "It couldn't have happened to a better kid because she's a strong person and she could laugh about it. Everybody else was kind of laughing too, and it got us really loose and relaxed."
From that point on, the Eagles left no doubt in a convincing sweep over the Warriors.
However, the next match will once again be a tough test for the first team All-stater and the Eagles.
"I think I'm going to have to step up my hitting a little bit and go out there and have a fun time," Christensen said.
But as Wendorff and the Eagles chase a state title, it's the little things that don't show up on a box score that make Christensen valuable.
"We ask our middles to always hold the middle blocker, and she does that very well," Wendorff said. "Whether she gets the ball set to her or not, when she goes to the net hard, that middle has to honor that. Then we can set it outside and have a great chance one-on-one on the outside."
Christensen entered the state tournament as the team leader both offensively and defensively.
She has accumulated 244 kills and 103 blocks this season. She also has 38 serving aces.
"I think I've improved my blocking," Christensen said. "I've worked in practice everyday working on the footwork. Reading the court has also gotten better."
Even with success individually and as a team, the All-State award still left Christensen speechless.
"I'm just excited," Christensen said. "It was a great honor to get that award, and I've worked hard for it, so it's nice to get that honor."
For Christensen, the award did not come without hard work to improve her game steadily throughout her career.
"I think I've improved my hitting and been able to see where spots are and being able to hit it to both sides of the court more easily," Christensen said. "Reading where the blockers are going to be has improved too."
The 6-1 senior has been starting for two years, but was kind of thrown in the fire during her sophomore year.
"I can really appreciate it, because I've seen where Casey's come from," Wendorff said of the All-State honor. "As a 10th grader, we thought maybe she's be playing one of our B squad middles, and we had a couple of kids that chose not to play volleyball, so we were kind of forced to put her in the middle probably long before she was ready.
"She took that on as a challenge and has worked extremely hard," Wendorff added. "She went from being All-Conference honorable mention her 10th grade year to All-Conference last year, to All-State this year. It's just a tribute to a kid that's worked hard and set her goals high."
For someone who sets high goals, it's no wonder she wants to leave with a state championship.
"That would be awesome," Christensen said. "It would be the best thing ever to win the state tournament and have our fans support us like that; it was mean so much to bring the championship home for our fans."
If the Eagles bring home a state championship it will not only be because of Christensen's leadership on the court, but off the court as well.
"I always make sure the team is having a good time and getting along," Christensen said. "I try to make sure practice is upbeat and we're working hard, so it's been a lot of fun this year."
But for Wendorff, its Christensen's personality that makes a difference.
"Obviously, she's a very highly skilled player, but she's also a person that people like to tease, but she takes it so well," Wendorff said. "Every team needs to have a person like that, and that's our Casey.
"She's kind of the silent, strong leader," Wendorff continued. "She's always there for us and always working hard."
As Christensen and the rest of the Eagles relaxed after a statement victory, there is still more work to be done before the season is over.
"I'm just focus on playing our game. We're getting used to this gym and the court, so I'm just going out there and having fun and playing our game," Christensen said of today's match. "I think we've all worked hard and we really want to win."