By Bob San
Sun Press Newspapers
The Totino-Grace volleyball team will use the regular season as preparation for a big post-season run in 2017.
See, the Eagles have been moved to Class 2A from 3A. They will continue to play in the Northwest Suburban Conference against mostly 3A teams. Once section starts, they will compete against 2A teams.
“We play a tough AAA schedule despite being moved to AA in the off-season,” Totino-Grace coach Kayla Cole said. “We are hoping to take advantage of our challenging schedule to prepare us for the post-season where we will have limited exposure to AA competition during the season.”
Moving down one class is not the only adjustment the Eagles have to make. They also have to fill the huge holes left by the graduation of two top hitters.
“It will be impossible to replace senior all-state middle blocker Izzy Sommers and senior all-conference outside hitter Eliza Dahly,” Cole said.
But the Eagles returns a solid group of starters. They are sophomore outside hitter Rylie Rios (29 aces, 196 digs), senior defensive specialist Megan Mullen (25 aces, 258 digs), sophomore defensive specialist Elizabeth Holscher (26 aces, 234 digs), junior setter Maddie Schaefer (26 aces, 164 digs, 869 assists) and junior middle blocker Allison Walker (102 kills, 45 blocks). Cole said Rios, Holscher and Schaefer are outstanding players who could earn all-state honors.
“We return a core group of starters including all but one primary passer,” Cole said. “We will continue to run a 5-1 with setter Maddie Schaefer for the second year. We have a skilled, experienced group coming in who will need to work to fill the positions left by Sommers and Dahly. We will have the challenge of staying focused on day to day improvement and learning so we are prepared for a different post-season scenario than we have had in previous years.”
The Eagles are well-respected in pre-season polls as they are ranked ninth among Class 2A teams. They will tussle against 3A powerhouses such as Champlin Park and Blaine in the conference. That tough competition should get them ready for a run in the section tournament.
Totino-Grace opened against North St. Paul Tuesday after press deadlines.
New Fridley coach stresses team work
Fridley coach Kelsie Zeah’s main message to her new team is team work.
“Team work, make the dream work.” I tell them,” said Zeah.
The Tigers struggled to a 4-15 record in 2016 and Zeah inherits a very inexperienced squad.
“Patience Williams, a dominant middle and sophomore captain, is the only returning player,” Zeah said.
Lacking a lot of knowledge about her new team, Zeah will concentrate on building the team and communication.
“We’ve been really working on our communication as a team,” she said. “I tell them the bigger their talk, the easier your play will be together. I want to build their confidence and overall have fun.”
So far, Zeah likes what she sees of her team and feels it has the potential to improve as the season progresses.
“Our strength is defense and weakness is communication at the moment but I am optimistic that we will gain confidence to be more vocal,” she said. “This is a good squad. They just have to focus and push themselves past their own limits.”
Hylanders look to build
With five senior varsity players back, Columbia Heights looks to build on its 9-11 season in 2016.
“This is a group of girls that has been playing together for years with an addition of a couple transfer students that are key pieces,” Hylanders coach Zach Awsumb said. “Getting all on the same page and in the direction of the team goal will be the strength of this team.”
Returners include middle hitter Kailey Marshalek, outside hitter Liz Brubakken, defensive specialist Kamryn Green and setters Sharianna Frauly and Eileen Pena Oquendo, who will also play libero.
Their experience will help alleviate the graduation of all-conference players Devonna Singer and Pashia Scott.
Irondale returns experience
Five seniors back and couple juniors with varsity experience will look to improve on a 7-14 season last year that ended in a five-set match in Class 3A Section 4 tournament first round.
Irondales returns seniors libero Haily Dabrowski, setter Taylor Seim, right side hitter Molly Overkamp and outside hitters Sophia Findell and Morgan Seim.
Outside hitter Katie O’Rourke and middle hitter Abby Bowman, both juniors, also have varsity experience.
Irondale graduated just four seniors in Danica Brannon, Leah Damerow, Lauren Parrill and Eva Mroczek.
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