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JCC volleyball team looks primed for success as area prep squads prepare to hit the courts

Volleyball

It’s hard to beat those Jackson County Central Huskies.

On the verge of another high school volleyball season, JCC looks once again to possess a team that can go far. One of the Huskies’ perennial rivals, the Windom Area Eagles, lost some key players from 2018 but looks to bounce back in 2019 in a year where they move up from Class A to Class AA and right into the same section as the Huskies.

Who else?

You have to start with the Adrian Dragons, who surprised many by playing strong end-to-end volleyball last fall, which culminated in a sub-section championship and section tournament final against powerful Minneota.

Let the volleyballs bounce where they may.

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Year in and year out, an always-solid Jackson County Central program positions excellent athletes on the volleyball floor, and this year even the head coach doesn’t hold back.

“We’re excited. Just keep staying positive with ‘em. I see us having a successful season as long as we stay healthy,” said coach Deidre Wierson.

How can you not be optimistic with the return of one of the top players in the state, 5-7 senior floor leader Alaina Wolff? Wolff was a Class AA honorable mention all-state selection in 2018 after leading her team in kills (289) and digs (315) while placing 69 service aces. Her best attributes, however, do not show up in the stat book. She’s a leader, an energizer bunny among her teammates. She lifts everyone around her.

“She’s definitely got one of the best ball control that I’ve ever seen,” said Wierson. “And her court sense and knowledge is just unbelievable.”

JCC also returns 5-9 sophomore hitter Sadie Voss, an outstanding athlete with high energy and a strong competitive spirit. Other key returnees include junior outside hitter Regan Farmer, junior middle hitter Alicia Brandt, sophomore hitter Georgiana Wenzel, senior libero Cali Cranston, freshman Macy Farmer, and experienced senior setters Jordan Rogotzke, Grace Brinkman and Megan Gallagher.

“We really have a lot of depth. So we can run a lot of things,” said the coach, who can switch back and forth from a 6-2 or a 5-1 offensive scheme.

Offense has always been a specialty for the Huskies. This year, that shouldn’t change.

“That’s one of our strong suits. And I have to say, as a serving team, that’s always been one of our strong suits, too,” Wierson said.

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In Windom, the Eagles are still getting their heads around being moved up from Class A to AA, meaning they’ll compete in sectional play against powerhouses Marshall and JCC.

“I think we’ve got our work cut out for us this year,” said head coach Crystal Fast, who nevertheless looks forward to the opportunity. “We knew it was coming. … I told them, this isn’t going to discourage us. This is going to have to make us work a little harder to keep our season going. We lost a lot of offense last year. There’s no doubt about that. What we’ve gotta do this year is be a defensive team. Do all the basics. Be scrappy.”

Fortunately for the Eagles, there are good athletes on hand, and talented younger players coming up. There are 15 juniors and seniors on the squad.

Katelyn Nichols is a returning All-Big South Conference player and 6-0 senior middle hitter. Autumn Hauge, another 6-0 hitter, is back along with senior libero Shelby Erickson and senior setter Halle Jackson, who’s played varsity since her freshman year.

Nichols and Hauge played Junior Olympic volleyball in the summer with the Southwest Minnesota Juniors, so they should be ready to hit the floor running.

Looking ahead to the Red Rock Conference, where Adrian ruled in 2018, fans can expect another spirited scramble for the top.

Last year, Adrian and Red Rock Central posted identical 9-1 conference records, followed by Murray County Central and Southwest Christian with 7-3 marks. Adrian returns two all-conference players in senior Kasie Tweet and sophomore Mayssa Tweet, but no matter what the Dragons do this fall, they’ll be hard-pressed to top what they did last season.

Their strong and consistent performances brought them to the brink of a state tournament berth. Minneota, which went on to win the state Class A title, defeated AHS 25-16, 25-14, 25-17 for its 27th consecutive match victory.

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Adrian will be a team to watch again this year. Southwest Christian’s squad, led by coach Sy Schaap, should also be dangerous led by senior outside hitter Jazlynn Prins, a versatile four-year varsity player who earned all-conference honors a year ago.

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