PREP VOLLEYBALL MIDSEASON REPORT: JCC looks to be atop Southwest ConferenceAs the volleyball season reaches the heart of the conference schedule, the Southwest Conference appears to be shaping up much like last year.
As the volleyball season reaches the heart of the conference schedule, the Southwest Conference appears to be shaping up much like last year.
Jackson County Central and Marshall are both currently ranked among the top-five Class AA teams in the state and appear destined to fight for the conference crown, with perennial powerhouse Windom looking to be exert itself as a contender with games against both the Tigers and Huskies within the next week and a half.
Here is how the area teams in the conference look to stack up, heading into the second half of the season, ordered based on last year’s conference standings:
Jackson County Central
The Huskies have been among the top-ranked Class AA teams in the state throughout the season and figure to be a favorite to defend their Southwest Conference, though Marshall looms as a potential roadblock.
JCC and the MHS have already faced each other this season, with Marshall winning a nail-biting five-set match in Jackson. However, the two teams seem destined to meet again down the road.
Despite accumulating a 29-1 record last season and a perfect 6-0 record in the conference, the Huskies fell short of a state tournament berth last year at the hands of Marshall and will look to avoid having the same happen again this year.
JCC returns a wealth of talent from last year’s lineup, with a strong senior quartet of Whitney Burmeister (OH), Kaylee Benson (MH) Lacey Schneekloth (OH) and Lexi Schneekloth (S).
The team also has the benefit of a wealth of varsity experience from juniors Jasmine Erickson (MH), Michelle Van Epps (S), Sydnee Donnelli (OH) and freshman Kaylee Burmeister (OH).
Head coach Teresa Van Epps mentions that so far the early part of the team’s season has gone well and the team is excited to get to the heart of the season.
The Huskies figure to see some excitement at the tail end of the season as well.
The Eagles finished a single game back of the Huskies in the conference race last year with a 5-1 conference record and a 25-7 overall record and finished a game shy of a Class A state tournament berth, succumbing to Minneota in the section finals.
This year Windom moved up to Class AA, which means that the Eagles will have to compete with JCC and Marshall not only for the conference title, but also for a state tournament berth.
Windom is off to a strong 11-3 start and will get its first test against Marshall on the road on Thursday before hosting the Huskies a week later for its Homecoming game.
Head coach Ron Wendorff — who was elected to the Minnesota State High School Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame last year — has a roster of players that has a mix of youth and experience.
The team has a pair of veterans in seniors Abby Hayenga (S) and Amber Eigenberg (OH) and also has a trio of experienced juniors in Hali Tasler (OH), Shelby Mattson (RH) and Holly Larson (MH). Sophomore Kelsey Hanefeld (OH) also has a lot of experience and has been a force at the net for the Eagles so far this season.
Windom has also seen some strong contributions from its younger players, including freshman libero Jasmine Carlson. The team also has four juniors (Leah Hacker, Meegan Hanson, Megan Will and Samantha Petersen) and a pair of sophomores (Miki Bolin and Rachel Sorensen) who are developing into strong contributors.
Wendorff said that the team is hoping to work hard and continue to improve each match out.
Despite the hype surrounding a pair of SWC teams that are represented by land predators, don’t be surprised if it turns out to be an aerial predator that swoops in and makes a run at both the conference title and a state tournament berth.
The Trojans finished with a strong 20-9 overall record last season, but finished fourth in the conference with a 3-3 record.
Worthington has started its conference campaign this season with victories against Pipestone Area and Redwood Valley for a 2-0 start, though still has to face some formidable opponents.
WHS has one of the most experienced senior classes in the conference in Mandi Vote (defensive specialist), Taylor Heidebrink (S), Megan Juber (OH), Mackenzie Gerber (MH), Kristen Andersen (OH) and Angela Robinson (OH) and also has a pair of experienced juniors in Tara Svalland (RH) and Morgan Johnson (MH).
The Trojans have also received top serving and backline play from a pair of younger players in junior Anna Koepsell (defensive specialist) and freshman libero Abbie Landgaard.
Last season Worthington was among the victims knocked out of section play by Marshall (falling in the second round after an opening round victory against Fairmont) and the team will hope its experienced lineup will be an ace in the hole during the remainder of its conference schedule and when the section tournament begins.
The Cardinals have been in close contention in a number of matches to start the season, but have lacked a finishing touch in opening with a 1-10-1 record.
Last year Luverne finished sixth in the conference with a 1-5 record (8-15-2 overall record) and will be working on limiting self-inflicted errors and improving its mental game as the team looks to turn things around for the second half of its season, starting on Thursday when it hosts Worthington.
Senior Chelsea Curtis (OH) has been a key leader with more than three years of varsity experience, as has senior setter Cheyenne Hemme, whom the team is hoping recovers quickly from a recent injury.
Junior Taylor Stratton (MH) accumulated some varsity experience last year and has established herself as one of the team’s top threats at the net. Sophomore Ellen Dahl (OH, RH) has also established herself as a go-to player this season and sophomore Ashley Olson has been a strong player despite still trying to find a permanent position on the court.
Head coach Kristin Schomacker is hoping that her players’ can develop a fighter’s edge that she hopes will help them learn how to win, a stumbling block that when surpassed should see the Cardinals become a threat to upset any team they play.
There is nowhere to go but up for the Arrows in the conference standings following a 0-6 conference record last season (6-20-1 overall record).
PA has put together a 2-7-3 record so far this season, including a 1-1-3 record at the Luverne tournament on Sept. 10.
Senior Maggie Perkins has been an anchor for the team this year at setter, with seniors Kayla Stout (MH) and Callie Nelson (RH) adding experience at the net.
Junior Amanda Haupert has had an all-around impact at libero, earning a number of digs and also bringing a reliable service game. Junior Mikayla Enger has also played strong defense throughout the season.
The Arrows have also seen strong contributions from a pair of younger players, with sophomore Megan Remund and freshman Taylor Kruisselbrink establishing themselves as two of the team’s top players.
PA has only had one conference matchup so far (a Sept. 8 loss against Worthington) so has plenty of time to earn some conference victories and work its way up the conference standings.
T-M-B, H-LP look to be in running for conference titles
After both Tracy-Milroy-Balaton and Harris-Lake Park finished near the top of their respective conferences in 2010, both teams are hoping to reach the next level in their 2011 campaigns.
Here’s how the two teams stack up:
The Panthers finished third in the Camdem Conference last year with a 7-3 conference record (18-13 overall record) and are so far off to a 3-1 start in conference play.
Minneota is the reigning conference champion and looks like a good bet to defend its title, though T-M-B is looking to be among the teams nipping at the Vikings’ heels.
The Panthers are led this season by a trio of experienced juniors in Tiffani Karbo (S), Ashley Daniels (OH) and Kate Johnston (MH).
Senior Darian Sanders (OH) and juniors Kelli Soupir (OH) and Jenna Stoneberg (MH) are the other experienced players returning for T-M-B.
The team also has a trio of freshmen that have stepped up and taken big roles this season in Anna Peterson (libero), Sammie Gervais (RH/MH) and Cassandra Hook (RB).
Head coach Katie Gervais mentions that the team has been more consistent already than it was last year at this time and is looking to find the next gear to play at a higher level.
The Panthers have scheduled some tough tournaments this season to force them to play at a higher level, which is experience that will hopefully pay off when the team enters the heart of conference play and later on in the playoffs.
The Wolves had a strong 25-9 record last season and survived a tough early season schedule this year with a 2-0 start to this year’s conference schedule despite a 7-9 record overall.
H-LP hopes to continue to be one of the toughest teams in Iowa’s Cornbelt Conference and be in the thick of the running for the conference title.
The team returns five players with a wealth of experience in senior Leah Duitsman (MH), junior Mariah Gath (MH) and sophomores Miranda Brueggeman (OH), Noreen Morrow (OH) and Macy Gunderson (S).
Sophomores Megan Garms, Grace Winters and Bailey Heikens are younger players that figure to play important roles as the season progresses.
The Wolves’ early schedule included a number of larger schools, with the team losing only once to a school in its class size.
Head coach Daryl Meyer says that the team’s goal is to work on improving every night in the hopes of competing for the conference title.
He also hopes that with six sophomores seeing significant time that his players can gain a lot of valuable experience throughout the season.