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Sacrificing for team led Tigers to first state volleyball tournament

When the season began, Stephanie Hanson told the members of the Nevis volleyball team that each individual would have to make sacrifices for the good of the team.

The players bought into that philosophy from the first day of practice. Doing what was best for the team resulted in Nevis' first trip to the state Class A tournament.

"I knew the girls had talent and we had a great chance (to get to state) and have one of those teams that may only come around once in a lifetime," said Hanson. "Moving people into spots where they can make the team succeed is always the toughest job as a coach. One huge key was figuring out the best way to get the ball to our middle hitters. The only way to make that successful is team effort, starting with the pass, then the set. Each member of the team excelled at her own role. They made sacrifices for the team. They made it about the team."

The Tigers earned a state berth by rolling through the Section 5A tournament. Nevis didn't drop a set in defeating Onamia (25-15, 25-14, 25-15), Pillager (25-15, 25-18, 25-13), Barnum (25-15, 25-18, 25-13) and defending section champion Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (25-18,2 5-17, 25-20). B-B-E was ranked No. 7 in the final state Class A poll.

It took a total team effort from the seven regulars - seniors Annie Albright, Mandy Allman and Maggie Lindow; juniors Annessa Feder and Paige Walters; sophomore Bettsy Hjelseth; and freshman Riley Hanson - for the Tigers to win the section title.

In the win over Barnum, Lindow had 19 kills, 13 digs and five ace serves while Hanson had 15 kills. Allman had 34 set assists, Feder had 10 digs, and Walters had five kills.

Lindow and Hanson had 17 kills each in leading the Tigers past B-B-E last Saturday night at Brainerd. Hanson also had six ace serves and 18 digs. Allman had 31 set assists and 11 digs, Walters had six kills and 11 digs, Feder had 15 digs and Hjelseth had seven digs.

"It was always our goal to get to state," said Allman, who took over as the starting setter. "We became more confident. We knew we could do it."

"We were pretty confident," said Albright, who was the Tigers' starting right-side hitter. "After we won the first game against Barnum, we knew we could do this."

"I was very confident," said Lindow, a middle hitter who has made a verbal commitment to play volleyball at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall next year. "We all know our roles. We play with heart and we play together as a team."

Allman symbolized the team concept for the Tigers. After being a back-row player last season, Allman was asked to take over the starting setter spot the first day of practice. Allman accepted the challenge and helped lead the Tigers to state.

"It took a lot of practice," said Allman. "I was willing to do it if that's what the team needed."

"I give a lot of credit to Mandy," said Hanson. "Mandy had never set for us before this year and she really worked hard. Her leadership was something the rest of the team looked up to."

Two other keys to Nevis' first state trip were playing Junior Olympic volleyball from January to June and improving the regular-season schedule. The Tigers competed at the Class A Showcase at Bethel University and at the Moorhead Invitational for the second year in a row. Playing in those two tournaments prepared the Tigers for making a successful run to state.

The Tigers defeated Lake of the Woods and Meadow Creek Christian and lost to Deer River at Bethel and defeated LOW and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton and gave Grand Rapids and Moorhead a battle at Moorhead. LOW, MCC and Deer River also qualified for the state Class A tournament.

Competing against - and beating - some of the best teams in the state gave the Tigers plenty of confidence.

"Those tournaments were confidence builders," said Allman. "We found out we could play with the bigger schools."

"Good competition makes us better," said Lindow. "I love playing the better schools because it makes us better."

The Tigers were consistent all season, entering state with a 25-5 record. As a team, the Tigers put 85 percent of their serves in play (1,344 for 1,962) with 322 aces. Nevis had 1,013 kills and 1,255 digs.

Leading Nevis at the net were Lindow and Hanson.

Lindow, who played some varsity as an eighth grader before becoming a starter as a freshman, joined Jaci Heath as the only Nevis volleyball players to record 1,000 kills in their careers. Lindow was an all-state player last season.

This season, Lindow was second on the team with 353 kills, 237 digs, 74 ace serves and 27 solo blocks. Hanson led the team with 372 kills, 247 digs, 78 ace serves and 43 solo blocks.

Allman entered state with 775 set assists, 171 digs, 53 ace serves and 35 kills. Walters had 136 kills, 204 digs, 49 ace serves and nine solo blocks. Feder tallied 82 kills, 189 digs, 27 ace serves and 10 solo blocks. Albright had 23 kills, 93 digs, 23 ace serves and six solo blocks. Hjelseth chipped in 88 digs and 12 ace serves.

Even though qualifying for state for the first time in school history fulfilled the team's main goal, the Tigers still have some goals to accomplish.

"We're happy to be there, but we want to go to state and accomplish something more," said Allman. "We want to play well and give them a run for the money."

"We want to win the whole thing," said Albright. "We're going to play our hardest."

"I expect us to do well," said Lindow. "If we play like we did Saturday night, we'll do OK."