SWC VOLLEYBALL: WHS looking to compete

WORTHINGTON -- Finishing in the middle of the pack in the Southwest Conference might be better than finishing last, but Worthington volleyball coach Melissa Schutz knows her team can do better than their 3-3 conference record last season.

WHS's Johnson practices a bump
jordan willi/daily globe WHS's Morgan Johnson practices her passing at volleyball practice Thursday in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- Finishing in the middle of the pack in the Southwest Conference might be better than finishing last, but Worthington volleyball coach Melissa Schutz knows her team can do better than their 3-3 conference record last season.

"We expect to play solid from start to finish, and compete in every match," Schutz, who has been head coach for the Trojans for five seasons, said.

For the Trojan's to climb in the SWC standings and improve on their 18-12-1 overall record, they will have to find a way to replace players like Taylor Heidebrink, an all-conference setter for Worthington last season, and outside hitter Kristen Andersen, who led the team in kills. In addition to Heidebrink and Andersen, Worthington will have to go this season without starting libero Abbie Landgaard, who is out with a torn ACL.

"We are replacing six big role spots," Schutz said. "We are returning letterwinners Brooke Henning, Becca Linder, Paige Gravenhof, Morgan Harberts, Morgan Johnson, Tara Svalland and Anna Koepsell. They will set up and play significant roles for us this year."

Worthington will also be getting two experienced players back from injury in letterwinner and outside hitter K.C. Riley and setter Emily Clark. Both players are seniors and should lend a hand in replacing the production of Heidebrink and Andersen.


Along with getting Clark and Riley back from injury, newcomers Tracy Prins, Paige Kinley, Allison Vote, Jovanna Bonilla and Allie Bruns will help round out the Trojan roster and add depth to the team's lineup.

Worthington's 2011 season ended in the semifinals in the Section 3AA subsection playoffs with a loss to Jackson County Central 3-0. The Trojans did, however, pick up a win against Fairmont in the quarterfinals before losing to JCC.

In order for the Trojans to climb the Southwest Conference standings and make a deeper run in the playoffs, Schutz knows her team has to improve their play in all areas of the game.

"We will be working on our defense and ball control a lot in practice," Schutz said. "Everything else will progress as our defense and ball control get better."

Worthington begins the 2012 season today with a game against the Fulda Raiders at 7:30 p.m. in Fulda. The Trojans first home game is against New Ulm at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 30.

Windom hopes experience leads to wins

WINDOM -- One thing the Windom Eagles volleyball team is not missing this season is experience. After losing only one player to graduation, the Eagles are stacked with experienced players who will help lead the team this season.

"We only lost one senior in middle hitter/setter Abby Hayenga," Eagles coach Ron Wendorff said. "She is a key loss and was one of the team's leaders in hits, blocks and was one of our top setters too. She was dynamic and we will miss her."


Last season, Windom went 21-9 overall and 4-2 in the Southwest Conference with Hayenga leading the way on the floor. Hayenga will be missed the most in her role as the team's go-to player in high pressure situations. Without Hayenga, the Eagles returning ten letterwinners will need to step up and fill the hole left by Hayenga, both as a player and as a leader.

"The strength of our team is the amount of experience we have at every position," Wendorff said. "We will need to find a player we can rely on as our go-to player. We need someone who can take those high pressure shots and get us the tough points when we need them. There are definitely kids on this team who are capable of that."

After 21 seasons as coach at Windom, Wendorff knows what it takes to win games. That is why Wendorff makes sure his teams are always working on their defense and their serving and receiving.

"We like to take pride in our defense, but we are always looking to improve," Wendorff said. "Serving and receiving is also something we always work on and is something we need to do well to win. But we work on this stuff every year. We just hope to improve from one match to the next."

The Eagles made it to the Section 3AA subsection championship before losing to Jackson County Central 3-0 last season.

Windom Area will get a chance to make it back to the championship game when they start their 2012 season with a home game against Mountain Lake Area at 6 p.m. on Aug. 30.

New coach takes over for Luverne

LUVERNE -- Even though the Luverne Cardinals volleyball team went winless in the Southwest Conference last season, new coach Renee Reuter likes what she is seeing so far.


"As my first year coming into the Cardinal volleyball program, I have been very impressed with the team and their eagerness to try new things," Reuter said.

The Cardinals went 4-19-1 overall last season, but that was last season. Reuter has her girls thinking about this season and leaving last season behind.

"The girls have had a positive outlook on everything that they are learning and have been working extremely hard these past couple of weeks," Reuter said.

Luverne ended last season with a 3-0 loss to Jackson County Central in the Section 3AA subsection quarterfinals.

Despite last season's setbacks, Reuter is looking forward not backward and expects her players to do the same. Above all else, Reuter can't wait for her team's chance to start a new season with a clean slate.

"I look forward to getting on the court and watching the progress the girls will make throughout the season," Reuter said.

The Cardinals start their season today with a game against St. James Area at 7:30 p.m. in Luverne.

JCC looks for another strong season


JACKSON -- The Jackson County Central Huskies volleyball team made it all the way to the Section 3AA championship before they lost to Southwest Conference rivals Marshall.

However, the Huskies success last season has done nothing to change the goals coach Theresa Van Epps sets for her team every year.

"Our goals are the same as always," Van Epps, who is in her sixth season as coach of the Huskies, said. "We really want to be competitive in the Southwest Conference. But our main goal is to win the conference and then get to state."

Those goals might be a little harder to reach for the Huskies this season considering they lost three of their top players from last year's team, including outside hitter and Minnesota Class 2AA player of the year Whitney Burmeister, middle Kaylee Benson and setter Lexi Schneekloth.

"Those will be big shoes to fill; those three seniors were key players," Van Epps said. "But we do have four seniors who are veterans and are really good in their own right. Plus, we are still ranked fifth in the state despite losing those three."

The four seniors leading the Huskies this year are setter Michelle Van Epps, middle/outside hitter Jasmine Erickson, along with outside hitters Syndey Donnelli and Lydia Brandt.

"Those girls are amazing athletes," Van Epps said. "They have great atitudes and great leadership qualities. And they also have a great court sense."

Even though the Huskies finished last season with only four losses overall (27-4) and a conference record of 5-1, Van Epps still knows that they will need to improve if they want to reach their goals.


"There are always things to improve on," Van Epps said. "We have to develop our middle blockers and work on our vision on defense. We want to be precise with no wasted movements.

"If we take care of the ball and make every play count, then we will succeed."

The Huskies start their season Aug. 30 with a game against Southwestern United at 7:15 p.m. in Okabena. The team's first home game is on Sept. 6, at 7:15 p.m. against Luverne.

Pipestone ready to play

PIPESTONE -- The Pipestone Area Arrows didn't quite have the season they had hoped in 2011. The Arrows were 1-5 in the Southwest Conference while going 5-16-5 overall.

For Pipestone Area to improve, it will need to rely heavily on its seniors and juniors for leadership and guidance on and off the court. The Arrows return seniors Amanda Haupert, Mikayla Enger and Cassie Evans.

Pipestone Area starts its 2012 season today against Canby at 7:30 p.m. in Canby. The Arrows will play their first home game against the Southwestern United Wildcats Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m.


What To Read Next
Get Local