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Trojans look to build on success

Jordan Willi/Daily Globe Betsy Thompson taps the ball over the net during a offensive drill at practice Thursday at the WHS gym.1 / 3
Jordan Willi/Daily Globe Worthington Trojan setter Paige Gravenhof jumps into the air to make contact with a volleyball during an offensive drill at practice Thursday in the Worthington High School gym.2 / 3
Doug Wolter/Daily Globe Returning letter winners for the volleyball team include, front row, from left: Paige Gravenhof, Abbie Landgaard, Paige Kinley. Back row: Allie Bruns, Tracy Prins, Brooke Henning and Becca Linder.3 / 3

WORTHINGTON -- After finishing 22-11 last season, new head coach Jessica Hogan hopes to lead the Worthington Trojans to the next level and make a deep run in the postseason tournament.

"I've been an assistant coach here for five years, so we will be building off of the direction that we have been taking the program in the past," Hogan said. "The program has been moving forward positively, so we want to keep building off of that success."

If Worthington is going to make a run in the playoffs, it will have to do so without the help of many of its core players from last year's 22-win team, including Morgan Harberts, Morgan Johnson, Tara Svalland, Anna Koepsell and KC Riley. However, Hogan is not worried about finding girls to fill the shoes of those players.

"We have a good group of leaders who are ready to go," Hogan said. "Our numbers are still good this year, but I prefer to just look into this year rather than looking backwards."

Leading the Trojans this year will be seniors Becca Linder, Brooke Henning, Abbie Landgaard, Paige Gravenhof, Paige Kinley and Tracy Prins.

"I think a lot of the seniors that had a role on the team last year will be asked to have a much bigger role this year," Hogan said. "Everyone is going to need to be able to keep that mindset throughout an entire match."

The Trojans also bring back sophomore Allie Bruns, who saw plenty of time on the court last season as a freshman, in addition to juniors Whitney Jensen, Allison Kremer and Betsy Thompson.

"We have a good core with a lot of returning veterans who have a lot of on-the-court experience," Hogan said. "We also have some girls who didn't see a lot of varsity time last year, but were on the bench and know what is going on. They will be ready to contribute, too."

A strong work ethic during practices and a strong determination to improve from game to game are traits Worthington will need to make the jump to the next level and possibly make a trip to the state tournament this season.

"I think we are going to have to keep working hard all season long if we want to be competitive in the Southwest Conference," Gravenhof said. "We will also need to work together as a team if we want to have success."

A key to the Trojans' success this season will be the team's ability to communicate with each other throughout the game.

"We need to make sure we are communicating well all game long," Henning said. "We are all really close as a team, so that really helps us with communication."

Along with good communication skills, Worthington will need to be consistent on a night-to-night basis in order to stay near the top of the Southwest Conference.

"We always have a tough conference schedule; every night we have a conference game we will have to make sure we are ready to go," Hogan said. "Our non-conference schedule will challenge us also. I see us as a team that is getting better and will continue to get better throughout the entire year."

One of the main things the Trojans feel they need to work on as a team in order to make a run in the playoffs is their defense.

"I think we need to improve on our defense a little bit, so we've been working on it really hard in practice," Landgaard said. "Once we get our defense working, the offense will just flow from the defense."

Another thing Worthington will need to do is work on its team depth in case of injury, and that means developing the skills of the younger, less experienced players.

"Helping the younger kids during practice is going to be the best thing we can do (as team leaders) to help them improve," Linder said. "A couple of the kids haven't played much at the varsity level, so just showing them how to play on varsity will be a big help."

The Trojans will get their first chance to test themselves when they host the Fulda Raiders at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the season opener in Worthington.

"I think we will be very competitive this year," Hogan said. "I think we will be a team that will get better and better as the year goes on. I believe we will be ready to peak when it is the right time."