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HL-O's Untiedt MVP in national AAU volleyball tournament

Samantha Untiedt, of Okabena, was named MVP of the AAU 15-and-under national volleyball tournament in Florida.

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Samantha Untiedt wasn’t expecting to be named Most Valuable Player on the 2021 national champion 15-and-under AAU girls volleyball team after her Kairos Elite team won its big Orlando, Fla., tournament last month. In fact, she didn’t think anybody would win such a prestigious award.

At the post-tournament ceremony on June 25, two other All-American awards were announced first. Then, to her surprise, an MVP was named, too.

“And honestly, I didn’t know this award was a thing,” she said.

And so, the Heron Lake-Okabena high school student explained that she was “shocked, but thankful” when her name was announced. Mostly, however, she was proud of her team.

Untiedt, who will be a sophomore at HL-O next fall, competed on a Sioux Falls-based Kairos team that outplayed 178 other teams in the Florida nationals en route to posting a 13-1 record. There are nine girls on the team, including four others from southwest Minnesota -- Elese Paplow of Lakefield, Emma Haren of Jackson, Emma Rasche of Heron Lake, and Windom’s Tristyn Maras, who was also chosen an All-American.

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Untiedt credited her teammates for the team’s exceptional performance.

“I always try to do the best that I can, and some days aren’t always as good as others,” she said. “Really, I think it was a pretty solid week, and it was really because of my team. Everything I did, I did because of them.”

Good on-court communication made the difference, said the Okabena resident. The team, she added, was “like a good machine working.” The entire team kept hustling to keep the ball off the floor, and Untiedt said she, herself, had a good tournament especially on the back row.

This is Untiedt’s fourth year of AAU volleyball, and June marked the conclusion of a lengthy volleyball year. High school volleyball at Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda started last August and ended in October. Tryouts for Kairos happen in November and December, and the season runs from January through June.

The nearly year-round volleyball has helped her become more confident and aggressive on the court, Untiedt said.

“I just love volleyball. I never really get tired. I just love seeing my teammates and playing. And when we do well, that’s the best reward,” she said.

But Untitedt added that winning the MVP award and being named an All-American has a nice ring to it, too.

“Whenever I doubt myself,” she said, “I can always look back and say, ‘Hey, I’m an All-American.

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