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Braves put together competitive season

Leah Schwartz (10) capped off her senior season by earning Park Region Conference honors. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

Head coach Isaiah Hahn was pleased with the progress the Menahga volleyball team made this season.

The Braves finished with a 3-4 record in Park Region Conference play and a 12-13 overall record after going 2-5 in the conference and 11-15 overall a year ago.

Leading Menahga this season were the nine letterwinners: seniors Leah Schwartz and Hailey Heegard; juniors Cierra Ahlf, Aimee Lake, Madi Marjama and Olivia Yliniemi; and sophomores Tara Hendrickson, Annie Lake and Jessica Pietila.

Schwartz earned all-conference honors after leading the Braves with 205 kills in the 17 best-of-5 matches as an outside hitter. Schwartz also had 235 digs and 22 ace serves to finish second on the team in both categories with 11 set assists and five ace blocks.

Marjamaa also received all-conference honors after leading Menahga with 430 set assists to surpass 1,000 in her career and 45 ace serves as a setter. Marjamaa also had 157 digs, 55 kills and five ace blocks in the 17 best-of-5 matches.

Heegard capped off her senior season by earning all-state academic honors and contributed seven kills and three digs as a right-side hitter.

Aimee Lake led the Braves with 294 digs while chipping in 20 service aces, 15 kills and seven set assists as a libero.

Ahlf had 73 kills, 153 digs, 14 service aces and three ace blocks as a middle hitter.

Yliniemi was second on the team with 95 kills while tallying 40 digs, 12 service aces, eight ace blocks and seven set assists.

Hendrickson led the team with 25 ace blocks while contributing 78 kills and 15 digs as a middle hitter.

Annie Lake had 38 kills, 119 digs, 21 set assists, nine ace blocks and six service aces as a right-side hitter.

Pietila was a right-side hitter who finished the season with 20 digs and nine service aces.

Rounding out this year's varsity roster were juniors Alyssa Peterson (right-side hitter) and Megan Hendrickson (middle hitter); sophomore Rena Pinoniemi (libero); and freshmen Elly Hillukka (middle hitter) and Martha Peterson (outside hitter).

The Braves finished fifth in the conference standings with wins over Bertha-Hewitt (25-14, 25-7, 25-9), Verndale (25-10, 25-25, 25-21, 25-23) and Pillager (25-12, 25-19, 25-13) and losses to Henning (25-23, 25-14, 31-29), New York Mills (25-23, 25-21, 21-25, 25-21), Sebeka (25-19, 17-25, 27-25, 18-25, 15-6) and Wadena-Deer Creek (25-17, 25-14, 25-14). W-DC claimed the conference title with a 7-0 record while Henning, New York Mills and Sebeka all finished at 5-2. Verndale (2-5), Pillager (1-6) and Bertha-Hewitt (0-7) rounded out the conference standings.

For the Section 6A tournament, Menahga received the No. 7 seed in the North and opened with a win over No. 10 Rothsay (25-9, 25-18, 19-25, 25-21) before falling to No. 2 Pelican Rapids (26-24, 25-15, 25-15). W-DC defeated Underwood in the section title match and went on to place fourth at the state Class A tournament.

"Overall, I was very excited with what we were able to accomplish this year as a team. We kept improving throughout the entire season," said Hahn. "Our two seniors meant a lot to our team and to our entire program. We have some huge shoes to fill next year. Leah has been a major staple for our volleyball program for many years. However, we will be bringing back plenty of experience next year. Our returning starters will need to be big leaders for us. Our team's ability to have great ball control will be a major key for our team to be successful next season."

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