HL-O/F, JCC among area's top prep volleyball squads
The Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda girls’ volleyball team went unbeaten in the Red Rock Conference and finished 22-7 overall last season.
This fall coach Trista Rhubee’s Coyotes, who defeated Worthington 3-2 Thursday in their season opener, are looking for more success.
“I think we’re definitely going to stay competitive and be really good again this year,” said Rhubee. “The girls would like to make it farther than we did last year and I think we have the potential to do that.”
Last year, Globe All-Area First-Team setter Elly Bang led the Coyotes to a special season. Even though she’s graduated, much talent returns.
Junior outside hitter Samantha Untiedt returns after earning third-team Globe All-Area honors. She will be a setter when in the back row. Madelyn Schumacher is a middle blocker who is a strong leader.
Other veterans who return for Rhubee include junior hitter Marissa Becker and junior libero Emma Rasche.
The Coyotes will miss graduated standouts Taryn Evers and Chrissy Hermeling, in addition to Bang. Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda advanced to the semifinals of the Section 3A tournament, where it lost a five-set thriller to Tracy-Milroy-Balaton.
“I really think this year’s team will do very well, too,” Rhubee said.
Meanwhile, the Section 3AA champion Jackson County Central Huskies are expected to keep rolling along. Last year the Huskies finished runner-up at the Class AA state tournament, dropping a four-setter to Sauk Centre in the state championship match.
In this year’s Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association preseason rankings, Sauk Centre is No. 1 and JCC is No. 2 in Class AA.
The Huskies lost All-Stater Sadie Voss and Globe All-Area Second-Teamer Georgianna Wenzel to graduation. But plenty of talent returns, including senior Maci Farmer and junior Emma Haren.
Farmer earned all-Big South Conference honors at setter after a season that included more than 1,071 set assists, 197 digs and a 94.8 serving percentage. Haren is a middle blocker who was named honorable mention all-Big South.
Teams from Pipestone and Luverne should also earn plenty of success in Big South Conference and Section 3AA play.
Luverne was 19-7 last year under coach Sara DeBeer. The Cardinals lost Globe All-Area First-Teamer Elise Ferrell to graduation, but veterans Anna Jarchow, Kamryn Van Batavia and Christina Wagner all return. Elizabeth Wagner, a 6-1 hitter, is also back.
Pipestone was 17-12 under coach Dave Dulas a year ago. The Arrows could be a lot better thanks to the expected return of many talented performers. Among them are Arian McGee, a 6-2 senior middle hitter and Globe All-Area Third Team selection. Other veterans who are expected back for the Arrows include Madelyn Wiese and Kyla Hubbling. The latter’s sister, Kayla Hubbling, is also expected back after missing last season with an injury.
Senior hitter Meredith Draper and senior libero Melody Remund are also talented performers back for Pipestone.
In Class 3AA, the Marshall Tigers are the preseason No. 1-ranked team, according to the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association. The Tigers have two All-State players returning in hitter Leah Jones and libero Caitlyn Christenson.
Windom Area will look to junior hitter Tristyn Maras, who was named honorable mention All-Big South Conference.
In the Red Rock Conference, there are several top players expected to return. Among them are all-conference standouts Josie Horning of Red Rock Central, Alynda Vande Griend of Edgerton Public, Ana Veldkamp of Edgerton Southwest Christian, Addison Jenniges of Westbrook-Walnut Grove, Jaci Tollefson of Mountain Lake Area/Comfrey and Lange Elbers of Hills-Beaver Creek.
Murray County Central has new leadership, as Becky Reinsma and Katie Furth have been named co-head coaches.
“Becky and I are very excited to begin working on building our program,” said Furth. “We are looking to be a tough opponent and contender in our conference. Setting expectations is more based on improvement from game to game.”
Among the veterans back for MCC are seniors Mary Lou McNab and Zoey Iverson, and juniors Kate Slettum and Abby Loosbrock. Senior Jaelen Barstad, who missed last season with an injury, is also back.
“We are also seeing major steps from those moving up from last year’s B-Squad,” Furth said.
Slettum was honorable mention all-Red Rock Conference last fall, along with several others who return to their teams this year. They include Red Rock Central’s Sondra Rindfleisch, Edgerton Public’s Brenalyn Smit, Southwest Christian’s Myah Vande Magen and MLA/Comfrey’s Michala Morin.
In Class A, Mayer Lutheran is the preseason top-ranked team. Minneota is No. 2 and Russell-Tyler-Ruthton is No. 3.
Minneota and R-T-R are in Section 3A this fall, along with the Red Rock teams. Also in the powerful section are the Tracy-Milroy-Balaton Panthers of coach Rick Haberman, an especially tradition-rich program.
The Panthers lost six seniors, including star hitter Kierra Danielson, who is now playing volleyball at Minnesota West, and Maddi Langerock.
The Panthers, 23-9 a year ago, can rely on veteran hitter Amber Hensch, libero Grace Dolan, middle hitter Jordan Munson and DS Kamryn Petersen.