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Arrows look to return to state tournament

PIPESTONE -- After a third-place finish a year ago, the Pipestone Area Arrows are looking to repeat their performance and earn a trip back to the state tournament. The Arrows enter this season as one of four ranked teams from the Southwest Conference.

PA is ranked seventh in Class AA, while Marshall is third and Jackson County Central is ninth. Windom is tied for second in Class A.

"Just like every year, (the competition) is tough," Pipestone Area head coach Todd Texley said. "There is some tough volleyball in our area."

But for Texley and the team, the focus is on this year, not what the team accomplished last season.

"We dealt with some injuries last year, which actually furthered our progress as a team," Texley said. "We try to forget last year, so we can concentrate on a new year."

The Arrows are off to a winning start after a 3-1 victory over Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Tuesday in their first match of the season.

Texley said the strength of this season's squad is the offense. In their match against R-T-R, Faith Tinklenberg led the arrows with 19 kills, while Megan VanderPoel and Chelsey Evans with seven kills each.

"Right now, offense would be our strength, but we're still working on our defense to catch up to the offense," Texley said.

Evans, who started last season as a junior will help anchor the offense for the Arrows. Nicole Buysse and Tinklenberg will also be major players as outside hitters for PA.

Meghan Visker, who had 36 set assists in the Arrows first match, brings experience to the setters position.

"She stepped in and set for us last year for three or four games, and now she's my setter," Texley said. "So that experience helped her so she's not coming in without any game experience this year."

Even in the early going, Texley said his team has a long way to go before they are where he wants them to be.

"We've actually put in a lot of new things this year, so it's taken some time to get our timing down," Texley said. "We've been working on that a lot early in the year."

Luverne Cardinals

LUVERNE - In her second year, Luverne head coach Kristin Schomacker is looking for more improvement from her Cardinal squad.

"Last year was my first year with the girls. I did a lot of changes with the program and with the girls, so we had a big learning season all last year," Schomacker said. "Our record didn't really shot it a lot, but I think overall, the Luverne program went up quite a bit."

The Cardinals ended last season with a 5-19 record, but are already off to a good start with a 1-1 record this season.

"We're looking a little more disciplined," Schomacker said. "We worked really hard in the offseason on passing and getting more touches on the volleyball."

This season, Luverne will be led by juniors Erika Rust and Diana Hanson. They led the Cardinals in Tuesday night's victory over Hills-Beaver Creek with six and four kills respectively.

One area that Schomacker sees as a strength is the team's passing.

"Our passing is a strength," Schomacker said. "Our serving seems to be a little stronger this year. We're really looking at being aggressive after the ball and doing more attacking rather than being attacked at."

After losing their first match to Sioux Falls Christian, Schomacker and the Cardinals saw improvements that needed to be made.

"We worked on a couple of things after the first game when we saw some areas that we need to work on," Schomacker said. "We look forward to this week, it's going to be a busy week, and hopefully we can correct the little mistakes before we get to our first conference game next week."

Luverne will open its conference schedule Sept 6 when the Cardinals host Worthington.

Jackson County Central Huskies

JACKSON - With a preseason ranking in the top 10, a new coach and an athletic team, the Jackson County Central Huskies have a lot to look forward to in the 2007 campaign.

Teresa Van Epps takes over the program after being the head coach at Kenyon-Wanamingo for four years. She said the transition has been exciting.

"The kids have been wonderful kids to work with, and I'm excited to get the season started," Van Epps said.

The Huskies' first scheduled contest was postponed, pushing the start of their season to tonight when they travel to Adrian.

So far this season, Van Epps is impressed with her team's athleticism.

"They are so athletic," Van Epps said. "We've been working a lot on passing since I would say passing is our weakest point. They do everything else very well, and they are a strong team."

With a strong team and a top-ten ranking, the expectations are high for this year's squad.

"I'm up for the challenge, but the expectations are up there too," Van Epps said. "JCC has had several years where they've been up at the top and they don't want to go back to the bottom."

Even with the skills and the expectations, Van Epps said the credit goes to previous coaches the players have worked with.

"Everything that these kids can do right now is from previous coaching," Van Epps said. "The things that I'm doing is fine tuning it. You still have to work the fundamentals, that's something that you can't overlook."

Megan Bezdicek, Sally Clarksean, Ashley Lucht and Brooke Burmeister will help lead the team offensively. In Van Epps offense, Anna Meneely and Halee Elness will handled the setting duties.

Van Epps said that while she has some heavy hitters, the key will be getting good passes to allow the hitters to attack.

"These kids are hard hitters; they serve hard and they serve with purpose," Van Epps said. "The key is to get the passes to where they need to be and not be out of system."

Windom Eagles

WINDOM - With a 3-0 victory over Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, the Windom Area Eagles are poised to make another run at the Southwest conference championship.

Last season, the Eagles finished 22-7 and were co-champs with Marshall.

"We had a great season, but we have a lot of kids back," Windom Area head coach Ron Wendorff said. "We have a lot of experience to draw upon."

This year's squad returns 10 letterwinners and six seniors. Wendorff said that will be the key for the Eagles to be successful this season.

"One of the biggest areas is the experience that our kids got from last year," Wendorff said. "We played at a real competitive level and we have a lot of kids back."

Another key for the Eagles is the balance that this team brings to the court each and every night.

"We also have balance," Wendorff said. "(Last season) we ended up with five kids with over 100 kills on the season, and four of those kids are back. We're going to bring a pretty potent attack at the net."

In their first match, Windom's Amy Robinson led with 10 kills, while Megan Ysker and Casey Christensen each had nine kills. Ysker and Christensen return after all-conference efforts a year ago, while Malori Paplow returns after being an all-conference honorable mention.

Ysker will also handle the setting duties for the Eagles, as she racked up 21 assists Tuesday night.

However, Wendorff said that even with the attackers the Eagles have returning, passing will be a key this season.

"With the fact that we have our hitters back, the thing that we have to continually strive to do is continue to pass better and play good defense," Wendorff said. "We have the power at the net, we just have to make sure we pass the ball and play good defense."

But Wendorff said he has the personnel that can set and pass the ball.

"We have some good kids as far as setters and passers go," Wendorff said. "We have Karissa Borsgard back as our libero this year, and we have some other kids that can pass the ball too."

Building on a successful season and with high expectations, Wendorff said the team doesn't feel a lot of pressure going into this season.

"I don't know if we feel pressure, we just want to continue to work hard and get better," Wendorff said. "I think our kids are looking forward to a good season, and we want to do well."

Windom Area is back on the court tonight at Mountain Lake-Butterfield-Odin.