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Prep volleyball: Trojans are focus-driven for 2018

Returning volleyball veterans for the Worthington Trojans are (front row, from left) Stephie Bauman, Anna Meyer, Jacee Turner (back row) Payton Sauerbrei, Madisyn Huisman, Sophie Wietzema and Kara Thuringer. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Just like you don’t have to be tall to be talented in basketball, you don’t have to hover over the net to be successful in volleyball.

The Worthington Trojans are banking on that as they prepare for the 2018 volleyball campaign, which gets under way in earnest on Thursday with a home match against Heron Lake-Okabena.

There are no 6-foot girls on this year’s team. The tallest girl is 5-10. But even though the Trojans won’t look down on their front row opponents, head coach Jessica Hogan assures fans they’ll know how to score points.

“We are probably going to be more defensive-oriented, to be able to use our quickness and athleticism,” said Hogan, adding, “I think we’ll be very balanced, and we’ll be able to spread the ball around. We definitely have girls who can put it on the floor.”

Worthington graduated All-Big South Conference player Anneke Weg from last year’s 14-15 team and other important contributors, but seven letter winners return.

They are: 5-10 sophomore middle hitter Sophie Wietzema, 5-9 junior outside hitter Madisyn Huisman, 5-6 junior libero Payton Sauerbrei, 5-7 junior utility player Kara Thuringer, 5-6 sophomore setter Stephie Bauman, 5-6 senior outside hitter Anna Meyer and 5-5 senior back row/utility player Jacee Turner.

Focus, togetherness and communication are crucial for winning volleyball teams, and Hogan is pleased that the players brought all of that with them for the first week of practice.

“The girls really came to practice with a noticeable focus and great work ethic,” she said. “The thing I’m interested in is how tight-knit a group this is.”

Leaders, she said, are “emerging everywhere.”

One of those leaders is Sauerbrei, who is a second-year starter. Sauerbrei said the team is more than prepared to grind out a few wins this fall.

“I think we’re all ready for that. We know we’re not very tall, but I think we’re very athletic. We all bring a lot of different qualities to the team. We kind of just round each other out. I think our team just meshes well together,” she said during Tuesday morning practice.

“We’re all really good friends. And I think that’s going to help our team a lot,” Sauerbrei concluded.

Teams that get along well together often communicate well on the court. That’s very important in volleyball, said Hogan, because “you want to control as many things as possible on your side of the net.”

Last season, the Trojans won a few close matches because they were able to become super-focused and super-communicative in pressure situations. They hope to do more of the same this year, and Sauerbrei believes she and her teammates have what it takes.

“You just can’t let yourself get down. And that’s what I’m really trying to concentrate on. Because volleyball is such a mental game,” she said.

With Sauerbrei as the team’s floor leader, and with Bauman’s quickness and exceptional anticipation skills, the Trojans should have the basics of good court coverage. Their hitters, though not particularly tall, are indeed talented. Wietzema and Huisman are experienced spikers and will be the go-to hitters when the chips are down. But they’re not the only dependable hitters on the team.

“It’s not like one person’s going to take over. Our setter has a lot of options,” Sauerbrei said.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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