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The Drill: Lady Jays' Buckneberg is ready to lead

Minnesota West sophomore volleyball player Kennedy Buckneberg is prepared to spike home winners and be a leader

Minnesota West volleyball player Kennedy Buckneberg makes a dig during preseason practice.
Minnesota West volleyball player Kennedy Buckneberg makes a dig during preseason practice.
Tim Middagh / The Globe
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WORTHINGTON -- There is obvious pressure coming into your sophomore athletic season at a two-year college. It’s different than being a freshman and anxiously wondering how you might fare at a new place and new level.

When you’re a sophomore, the pressure is about providing the right kind of leadership.

Kennedy Buckneberg is heading into her second year of volleyball at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, and she’s looking forward to adding onto what she started as a first-year player. The Lady Jays’ leading hitter in 2021, Buckneberg figures to continue providing excellent offense in 2022 while being a strong influence on her teammates.

“I do feel a little more pressure, that I have to build the team together and kind of make us work together,” she said. “Because in volleyball, that’s very important, that you work as a team. So my main focus is to get us to play very well together.”

Last year, the Lady Jays’ season was uneven because, in part, they struggled to find cohesiveness on the court. Head coach Brittney McNab highlights communication as the key to producing an improved 2022, and the players have received that message happily.

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Even during pre-season practice, the Jays have noticed a positive difference that they believe will carry over to the regular season.

Buckneberg, who graduated high school in Garretson, S.D., decided to return to Minnesota West because she wanted to continue being a difference-maker in a school and a community that she’s come to enjoy.

“I chose to come back this year because I feel like I owe it to my coaches, just being there for them. … I may as well come back and finish my degree (in business management). I get to play another year, so that’s also very great,” she said.

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Buckneberg, who has played volleyball since she was a middle schooler, is a go-to hitter because she goes about her net duties intelligently. She will strike the ball with power sometimes. But not all the time. She’s aware of where the blocks are coming from, and sometimes it’s better to place the ball in open places rather than simply smash it against opposing hands.

The Globe selected Kennedy to be this week’s Drill subject. You can see the video online at www.dglobe.com . Here’s a sample of the interview:

QUESTION: Why did you choose Minnesota West after graduating from high school?

ANSWER: “I chose Minnesota West because they offered me to play, and I wanted to continue to play. And I like the town (Worthington), I like the school. Once I toured the school I just knew that this was my home. I just felt it. It felt like I should be here.”

QUESTION: How do you go about your business as a hitter?

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ANSWER: “My technique offensively is to just be smart with the ball. I mean, most people want to kill the ball, and I believe that being smart, roll-shotting (where the ball is hit lightly, but strong enough to clear the defending blockers, with good topspin) -- just being smart placing the ball where there’s not anyone. I mean, that’s where I get most of my kills. I like my sets pretty low, I don’t like them super high. I feel like it gives the blockers enough time to get over and get set and block me. I prefer a low set and use that to my advantage.”

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QUESTION: Who inspires you in volleyball?

ANSWER: “The person that inspires me the most is probably my high school coach, Dennis Northrup. He came in when I was a sophomore and he really inspired me to love volleyball more than I did. He helped me a lot to get even better than I was at the time. He made sure that I didn’t make mistakes. If I made mistakes on the volleyball court, he took me out. So it kind of made me think, ‘OK, I need to stop making mistakes,” which also brings it back to why I play smart because I want to get kills and I want to win the game.”

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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