SSC, Fulda and SWC jockey for position atop Red Rock Conference
WORTHINGTON -- Southwest Star Concept returns as the defending Red Rock Conference volleyball champions, as the Quasars were undefeated (11-0) in league play a year ago.
Edgerton and Murray County Central tied for second in the conference with 9-2 marks, while Fulda (8-3) and Southwest Christian (7-4) rounded out the top five.
Round Lake-Brewster had a winning record (6-5) to finish sixth, followed by Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin (5-6), Westbrook-Walnut Grove (4-7), Adrian (3-8), Red Rock Central (3-8), Ellsworth (1-10) and Hills-Beaver Creek (0-11).
Here is a preview of this year's Red Rock Conference volleyball teams, listed in order of their 2006 conference finish:
Twelve letterwinners return for the Section 3A South champions, as depth is the number one strength for the Southwest Star Concept Quasars.
All-Conference selections Linnea Henkels, Shannon Hussong and Chelsey Knutson have departed, as has Kris Beyer, from last season's 24-6 club.
SSC has both experienced and younger players vying for court time to help replace those athletes, as the Quasars return six senior veterans and a solid stable of juniors and sophomores.
Senior Chelsey Cranston is in her fifth year as the team's setter, while classmates Adri Rasche and Michelle Olsem return as middle hitters, Sarah Frodermann and Elizabeth Paul bring experience to the left side, and Sydney Place plays on the right side.
Junior Betsy Voehl (left-side hitter) and sophomores Luanna Henkels (setter), Bria Baumgard (left-side hitter), Erika Post (right-side hitter), Maddie Collin (middle hitter) and Katherine Kazemba (left-side hitter) also lettered a year ago, giving head coach Rick Haberman several capable players to choose from.
Edgerton Flying Dutchmen
Featuring both size and quickness, Edgerton is aiming to duplicate last season's success when the Flying Dutchmen went 21-7-1 and reached the Section 3A South semifinals.
Edgerton will be without All-Conference performers Alexa Vanden Bosch, Amy Kallemeyn and Heather Van Kley, as well as Maricia Pick and Joni VandenBerg -- all of whom graduated last spring.
However, senior Karli Decker (left-side hitter) and sophomore Alyson Drooger (right-side hitter) were All-Conference Honorable Mention selections last season, and junior Katie Hadler (left-side hitter) and senior Dulci Boyum (defensive specialist) also return with experience, giving head coach Randy Butson a strong nucleus to work with.
Sophomore Macy Butson is replacing Vanden Bosch as the team's setter, while classmates Emily Sluis and Kelsey Wolthuizen will look to contribute as middle hitters in place of Kallemeyn and Van Kley.
Butson points to junior Sammi Vanden Bosch (defensive specialist) and sophomore Hailey Van Kley (right-side hitter) as two more prospects who will help the Flying Dutchmen this fall.
After losing 13 seniors from last year's 17-8 squad, the Murray County Central Rebels will look to stay competitive with a new group of athletes.
Head coach Donna Johansen has just two letterwinners returning in senior Dani Onken (right-side hitter) and sophomore Emily Bose (middle hitter).
Bose charted 142 kills and 50 ace blocks as a freshman last year, when the Rebels defeated Pipestone Area during the regular season.
Madeline Robinson (setter) and Lydia Mesner (backrow) are the other seniors on the team.
A year after reaching the Section 3A South title game and going 19-10-1, the Fulda Raiders are hungry to put together another successful season under head coach Jessica Hogan.
All-Conference performers Kaitlyn Kramer (middle hitter), Laura Kramer (middle hitter) and Susan Fenske (libero) all graduated last spring, leaving the Raiders with some spots to fill.
However, with five senior letterwinners coming back, the Raiders maintain a strong core of players to build around.
Sam Raddle returns to her setter position, while Mandy Gunderman brings experience as an outside hitter. Both Raddle and Gunderman made the All-Conference Honorable Mention squad last year and are each in their third year as a starter.
Brooke Kuehne returns to the starting lineup for the third year as a right-side hitter, while Stephanie Gunderman (outside hitter) and Tammy Peterson (right-side hitter/backrow) are two more team leaders.
Hogan is looking for Mari Holinka (sophomore middle hitter), Brittany Hulstein (freshman outside hitter), Chrissy Wieskus (junior libero) and Amy Paulzine (junior middle hitter) to produce this season, as well.
With senior All-Conference performer Kelsey Van Dyke back for another year as a middle hitter, the Southwest Christian Eagles will look to build upon last season's 15-9-2 record.
Van Dyke and senior backrow players Courtney De Kam and April Reitsma saw a lot of court time last year for the Eagles. Six players, including All-Conference players Amber Buys and Erin Mouw, graduated from the 2006 team.
Head coach Dan Broekhuis is looking for several players to step up this year, as he lists seniors Katie Vermeer (right-side hitter), Emily Prins (setter) and Amber Van't Hof (defensive specialist) as the leading candidates.
Juniors Angie Vermeer (left-side hitter) and Brianna Spronk (middle hitter), along with sophomores Jada Vander Veen (left-side hitter) and Kayla Broekhuis (setter) are among the other Eagles being counted on to contribute.
Five senior letterwinners are back for Round Lake-Brewster, and head coach Jami Cummings sees a lot of potential on her 11-athlete roster.
RL-B (13-10 a year ago) will have to replace Kelli Correll (All-Conference) and Amanda Baumgarn (All-Conference Honorable Mention), along with three others who graduated from last year's team.
Leading the Raiders this year will be senior setter Kasey McNab, who was tabbed to the All-Conference team and totaled 523 set assists.
Seniors Krystle Doeden (right-side hitter), Leah Riley (left-side hitter), Elly Schmitz (left-side/middle hitter) and Sarah Schmitz (middle hitter) are the other veterans on the team.
With the departure of six seniors from a year ago, Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin will be in a rebuilding mode this season.
The Wolverines were 7-15-1 last year and will be without Lacey Janzen, Kaysee Nesmoe, Lynsey Haglund, Emily Harrington and two others. Nesmoe and Haglund were each tabbed to the All-Conference Honorable Mention team, while Janzen was an All-Conference selection.
Six letterwinners, including senior Nora Rameriz and junior Megan Svalland, are back for the Wolverines, who are coached by Crystal Fast.
Seniors Ashley Karschnik (setter), Kayla Lepp (outside hitter) and Tasha Sipaseut (libero), along with junior Brittany Wenner (outside hitter), are the most experienced Wolverines returning.
Two of the six returning letterwinners are currently injured for the Westbrook-Walnut Grove Chargers, who went 10-16-2 last fall.
Senior Whitney Frank (All-Conference) and junior Kassandra Jarmer are both veteran outside hitters, but are injured to start the season.
Also returning with experience are seniors Alisha Parker (setter) and Jenny Hoffman (libero), junior Audra Schmidt (middle hitter) and sophomore Kylie Erickson (outside hitter). Schmidt and Erickson were All-Conference Honorable Mention picks last year.
Head coach Natalie Ross will look to those six players to anchor the team, as Denise Tietz (All-Conference), Stephanie Comnick, Andrea Hass and Gretchen Warner graduated from a year ago.
Ross sees sophomore Sara Jarmer (setter/right-side hitter) and freshman Taylor Elzenga (outside hitter) as a pair of up-and-comers who may help the Chargers this season.
With new head coach Katie Prunty guiding them, the Adrian Dragons will look to improve on last season's 5-18-2 campaign.
Senior setter Kayla Bullerman is one of the veterans returning for Adrian. Bridgett Block and Megan Graff, both seniors, will be the Dragons' middle hitters.
Prunty lists Kourtney Kramer (junior), Hayley Vaske (junior) and Briana Niebuhr (senior) as the leading prospects at the outside hitter position, with junior Katy Slater and senior Melissa Weidert expected to play on the right side.
Sophomore Trysten Lange will be the libero, while senior Kelsey Wiertsema and junior Mary Loosbrock will also help as defensive specialists.
Red Rock Central head coach Mary Shaner is excited about this year's edition of Falcon volleyball.
Danielle Trapp and Ashley Neperman graduated off last year's 9-17 team, leaving Shaner with a strong group of returning players to work with.
Letterwinners Kelly Shaner (senior right-side hitter, All-Conference Honorable Mention), Alyssa Schmidt (senior outside hitter), Krystle Sell (junior setter) and Abby Halter (junior outside hitter) are back for another year, bringing experience and leadership to the team.
Senior captain Emily Engen (outside hitter) and freshman Alyssa Fredrickson (middle hitter) are among the other Falcons Shaner is looking for contributions from.
Head coach Leah Christie and the Ellsworth Panthers will look to climb the conference standings and improve on last year's 2-14 record.
Amanda Connors, Mya Mann and Laura Timmer have graduated, leaving the Panthers with the majority of their team returning.
Seniors Brooke Kramer (middle hitter) and Carrie Tiesler (backrow), along with junior Rayna Sandoval (backrow), will be the team leaders this fall.
Sophomores Amanda DeBoer (middle hitter), Courtney Dreesen (outside hitter/backrow), Darian Herman (right-side hitter), Brooke Kix (outside hitter), Molly Kramer (setter/backrow) and Leah Timmer (middle hitter) are among the other Panthers who will look to provide a spark.
After going 0-20-1 last season, the Hills-Beaver Creek Patriots will be looking to get back in the win column this year.
H-BC loses seven seniors -- Amanda Tilstra (All-Conference Honorable Mention), Kaitlyn Bos, Chelsi Fink, Kilee Baker, Kerri Fransman, Ashley Hoyme and Sonya Elbers -- off last year's team. All seven played a lot and started at one point for the Patriots.
Head coach Mandy Kor welcomes back four letterwinners, and is optimistic about the Patriots' chances of turning things around this year.
Senior Brittany Helgeson, who missed most of the 2006 season with an injury, will see time as a left-side hitter and backrow player. Senior Becca Crawford also returns with experience.
Juniors Leah Hup and Jessy Bos each started a few games last year and will be counted on to produce as middle hitters, while senior Lucy Larson (setter/right-side hitter), junior Kelsey McGuire (left-side hitter/backrow) and freshman Jayme Plimpton (setter/right-side hitter) are among the other Patriots looking to contribute.