Tigers have talent to return to state tournament
Qualifying for state for the first time in school history and winning the consolation title capped off a historic season for the Nevis volleyball team in 2009.
Head coach Stephanie Hanson is counting on a similar season from the Tigers in 2010.
"Our state appearance last year was an experience our team and community will never forget," said Hanson. "Although we lost some key seniors, I like the fact that some of our key returning players have played on the big stage. I would be lying if I said we weren't striving to do it again. Repeating success proposes different challenges. We are on the map now and expectations are there. How the team handles those expectations will be the key to our success."
The Tigers lost three key players in middle hitter Maggie Lindow, setter Mandy Allman and right-side hitter Annie Albright. Lindow was an all-state and all-state honorable mention player the last two years while Allman ran the offense. Both Lindow (Southwest State University) and Allman (University of Minnesota-Morris) are playing college volleyball this fall.
On the positive side, the Tigers return four veterans from last year's team that finished with a 26-6-1 overall record. Nevis defeated Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa for the Section 5A title and followed a loss to Meadow Creek Christian with wins over Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop and Parkers Prairie to win the consolation title at state.
Leading Nevis this season will be the four returning players from last year's state tournament team: senior captains Annessa Feder and Paige Walters, junior Bettsy Hjelseth and sophomore Riley Hanson.
Hanson, a middle and outside hitter, was named to the state Class A all-tournament team and led the Tigers with 441 kills, 80 ace serves, 61 solo blocks and 339 digs.
Feder who moves from outside hitter to middle hitter, tallied 93 kills, 32 ace serves, eight solo blocks and 277 digs last season.
Walters, an outside hitter, had 151 kills, 50 ace serves, 12 solo blocks and 299 digs for the Tigers last season.
Hjelseth chipped in nine kills, 13 ace serves, three solo blocks and 144 digs as a right-side hitter last fall.
The addition of freshman Megan Norby also helps the Tigers' chances to return to state. Norby earned Mid-State Conference honors after tallying 51 ace serves, 148 service points, 240 kills, 298 digs and 11 solo blocks for Park Rapids last season.
Freshman Olivia Toft is scheduled to take over the starting setter duties.
Looking to provide depth off the bench will be seniors Brittany Carlson (outside hitter), Ashley Cain (outside hitter) and Amber Clark (libero); sophomore Karly Drury (setter); and freshman Taylor Drury (setter).
"We have a solid group of seniors with very strong underclassmen. The offense looks to be well balanced and will be exciting to watch. We made great progress in our defensive play last year and need to maintain that intensity this year. Filling the setting position will be crucial for us. We have three good returning offensive players plus the addition of Megan and we need to get them the ball," said Hanson. "We have the ability and staying injury free will be a huge key for us. We are hoping to be a force in the conference and section and even state. The whole team has worked very hard during the off season to improve and make this season the best ever."