Summer spiking success
Steph Hanson is counting on a successful summer to lead to a successful fall for the Park Rapids volleyball team.
The Park Rapids head coach put together a competitive schedule this summer to prepare her team for the high school season. A year ago, the Panthers went 19-6 and earned the No. 1 seed in the South for the Section 8AA tournament. A loss to Pequot Lakes, the No. 4 seed in the South, in the second round ended Park Rapids' season prematurely.
"We had a very successful year last year, but the ending was tough. That motivated the girls to be dedicated this summer," said Hanson. "Our goal for the summer was to challenge our level of play. We entered some good tournaments so we could challenge ourselves. The girls did pretty well."
In addition to hosting an eight-team summer league, Park Rapids entered the 38th annual USA Girls Junior National Championships at the Minneapolis Convention Center, which was held from June 30-July 3. This tournament featured 1,264 teams and 13,000 players in 26 divisions.
Park Rapids went 6-5 in 11 matches against select 17U teams from across the country. Park Rapids lost its first three matches to WAVE (25-13, 25-19), Attack (25-23, 25-16) and Michio Chicago (25-22, 25-21) before putting together a four-match winning streak by defeating MICA (25-11, 25-21), Genuine Elite Angel (25-18, 25-11), Momentum (25-22, 25-17) and Crossfire (25-17, 26-24). Park Rapids ended the tournament with a loss to MI (25-19, 25-22), wins over Lawrence Landsharks (10-25, 25-21, 15-12) and FORZA North (25-18, 25-17) and a loss to Summit North (17-25, 25-16, 15-9).
Park Rapids also played in tournaments at Alexandria, Lakeville and Moorhead and will conclude the summer season at a Pequot Lakes tournament Sunday.
During the nine-week summer league Monday nights at the Century School gym, Park Rapids finished second with a 6-1 record. Park Rapids defeated Sebeka (25-16, 25-17), Nevis Gold (forfeit), Nevis Green (25-8, 25-7), Menahga (25-16, 25-17), Laporte (25-10, 25-14) and Walker-Hackensack-Akeley (26-24, 25-14) and lost to Pine River-Backus (25-16, 25-18).
Nevis Gold defeated Sebeka (25-18, 25-13), Nevis Green (25-13, 25-12), Laporte (25-18, 25-21) and W-H-A (25-21, 25-12) and lost to Park Rapids, Menahga (forfeit) and PR-B (23-25, 30-28, 17-15). Menahga also defeated Nevis Green (26-24, 25-14) and Laporte (25-8, 25-21) while also dropping matches to Sebeka (20-25, 25-16, 19-17), PR-B (28-26, 25-7) and W-H-A (35-14, 25-21). Nevis Green also dropped matches to Sebeka (25-17, 16-25, 15-10), PR-B (25-5, 25-13), Laporte (25-18, 25-20) and W-H-A (25-9, 25-13).
PR-B won the regular-season title with a 7-0 record. Following Park Rapids were Nevis Gold at 4-3, Sebeka at 4-3, Menahga at 3-4, W-H-A at 3-4, Laporte at 1-6 and Nevis Green at 0-7.
During Monday's season-ending tournament, Park Rapids received the No. 1 seed when PR-B couldn't participate and defeated No. 4 Menahga (25-8, 27-29, 15-10) in the semifinals and Nevis Gold (25-15, 14-25, 15-10) in the championship match.
In the first round, No. 4 Menahga defeated No. 5 W-H-A (25-14, 18-25, 15-13), No. 3 Sebeka eliminated No. 6 Laporte (25-8, 25-17), and No. 2 Nevis Gold defeated No. 7 Nevis Green (25-18, 25-4). Nevis Gold eliminated Sebeka in the other semifinal match.
"The summer volleyball season has been very productive for the team. Offseason practices and the Park Rapids Summer League games are key for preparation and skill development for fall play," said Menahga head coach Isaiah Hahn. "We have a pretty young team this year and are excited to get the season started. I am excited to build on the skills and the fundamentals that we have worked on throughout this offseason."
"We play in different events all summer. You can work on different parts of your game every weekend and players can focus on different skills," said Nevis head coach Heidi Wormley. "It's nice to have a league close. We have a lot of players, so it was great that we could have two teams. The girls get to play more and that is awesome."
"This league is a good way to play more matches instead of just practicing. It's fun playing these area teams," said Hanson. "I think the girls recognize the benefit of it (competing in the summer). I think they gained a lot of confidence."