WORTHINGTON -- The Minnesota West Lady Jays volleyball team wants to be a strong and quick offense in 2017 and thinks it has the pieces to do it.
The squad returns three players in Katherin Ihnen, Nichole Rowe and Hannah Neuman, and six freshmen round out the squad.
Middle hitters Ihnen and Rowe bring power and skill to the front line. Ihnen is a powerful hitter who excels at reading her opponents. And Rowe is a versatile player in her second year as a middle hitter after setting in high school.
“It’s really nice to have that consistency back in the middle of the front row,” Minnesota West head coach Marie Johnson said. “They’re very aggressive and we’ll see a lot of offense and blocking from those two ladies.”
Neuman is making a transition from outside hitter to the right side this fall. The move opens a spot for new addition Andrea Hinkeldey who will play outside.
“(Hinkeldey) is a powerful and quick hitter,” Johnson said. “She is able to run. She is a great all around player and has a great passing technique.”
Hinkeldey’s quickness should be a good fit for the “quick and aggressive” offense the coach says will be the strength of the team this year.
“We want to be aggressive early and make sure we can set it up quickly and get past the other blocks,” Johnson said. “We will show that we do a good job reading the court.”
At setter this season will be Westbrook-Walnut Grove grad Emma Woelber, who the coach says has given the hitters nice balls so far in practice.
Practices have gone well across the board for Minnesota West, but y the time it opens its season with Rochester tonight at 6:30 p.m. at home, it will have been practicing for two and a half weeks. It’s ready to play a game.
“I am really excited about the enthusiasm that all of the players have brought to practice so far,” Johnson said. “We have been practicing for almost two and a half weeks, so at that point it’s time to play a game.”
Rochester is just one of many good teams on the Lady Jays’ schedule in a competitive MCAC southern division which features a Ridgewater team that is already 4-0 and a St. Cloud Tech squad that stands at 5-1.
“We’re going to see a lot of very skilled teams,” Johnson said. “We’re looking forward to playing up to our level every single match. I think that we will definitely see some successes this season and we are excited to get our first match under our belts.”
This year, the team hopes to lean on its experienced sophomores and talented freshmen to improve from a 2-18 season last year. The 2016 squad was young, with only two sophomores -- and only one whose primary fall sport was volleyball.
“I think that we have a wider range of volleyball experience and a larger number of years played by each of the players this year,” Johnson said. “We started working earlier on our serve receive rotation and hopefully people will be more comfortable with their positions this season and we’ve really worked on communicating as a team.”