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Graduation leaves key spots to fill for Tigers

Senior Montana Baker (13) is one of three regulars returning for the Nevis volleyball team this season. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

Graduation left the Nevis volleyball team with six key positions to replace this season.

However, head coach Heidi Wormley is counting on the return of three all-conference players to lead the Tigers to another successful season.

The Tigers have to fill the positions left by the graduation of middle hitter Hannah Anderson, libero Vanessa Byer, right-side hitter Emma Bliss, outside hitter Cielo Mooney and defensive specialists Madisyn Lucas and Brea Pohl. Five of those six earned Northland Conference honors with Anderson (277 kills, 313 digs, 20 blocks, 133 service points) and Byer (585 digs, 41 service aces, 176 service points) earning all-conference honors and Bliss (82 kills, 14 blocks), Mooney (225 digs, 31 service aces, 157 service points) and Lucas (23 ace serves, 130 service points, 217 digs) receiving all-conference honorable mention honors.

Those five players led the Tigers to the Northland Conference title with a 7-0 record. Nevis went 12-16 overall, earning the No. 2 seed in the East B bracket for the Section 5A tournament. The Tigers defeated Walker-Hackensack-Akeley in the first round before being eliminated by Braham. Kimball defeated Braham in the section title match.

"We graduated a lot of talent. We graduated our entire back row and most of our varsity experience," said Wormley. "The girls (returning) have put in a lot of time practicing and playing volleyball in the offseason and all of our players have experienced success at the various levels they have played at and now is their time to contribute at the varsity level."

Returning to lead the Tigers this season are senior outside hitter Montana Baker, junior setter Andrea Dudley and junior middle hitter Ashley Pyburn. Dudley and Pyburn return as starters after earning all-conference honors while Baker was an all-conference honorable mention selection.

Dudley played in 76 sets and compiled 585 set assists to surpass 1,000 set assists in her career. Dudley put 247 of 255 serves in play with 22 aces while tallying 137 service points. Dudley also added 40 kills and 215 digs.

Pyburn pounded down 138 kills and had 22 blocks and 128 digs while putting 236 of 252 serves in play with 19 aces and 127 points in 82 sets.

Baker also played in all 82 sets and went 24 for 30 in serves with three aces and 16 points and had 106 kills, 59 digs and 12 blocks.

Also back with varsity experience are junior middle hitter Jessica Swanda (who led the team with 33 blocks while adding 72 kills and 40 digs in 79 sets), sophomore middle hitter Kia Heide (who had six kills and eight digs in 28 sets) and junior middle hitter Janesa Felt (who played in 10 sets).

Competing for starting spots and providing depth on the varsity will be seniors Viviana Viloria (defensive specialist) and Madison Nevens (outside hitter); junior Eleannor Roehl (outside hitter); sophomores Cora Umthun (defensive specialist), Jayden Vredenburg (outside hitter) and Cole Mastley (outside hitter); and freshman Sadie Thurner (defensive specialist).

Rounding out the Tigers' roster will be junior Autumn Vogel (defensive specialist); sophomores Maddie Mitchell (outside hitter), Nicole Bayman (defensive specialist), Anna Hennagir (middle hitter), Megan Geraedts (setter), Ivy Huckbody (middle hitter) and Sierra Wroolie (middle hitter); freshmen Maggie Carrier (libero), Carol Keezer (defensive specialist), Paris Munn (setter), Haillee Shumway (defensive specialist) and Cammille Henderson (outside hitter); and eighth graders Ava Isaacson (outside hitter), Makena Frazier (middle hitter) and Kali Oelschlager (outside hitter).

"Obviously with our entire back row graduating, a key will be replacing all that experience back there. We have the players to fill the positions and they have the talent. Now it's their time to prove it on the floor," said Wormley, who will be assisted by Karly Drury and Taylor Drury. "We will once again contend for our conference title and we have the potential to contend with the very best in our section once again. It all depends on how the team steps on the floor. If our girls bring all their talent and potential to fruition, then we will be a section contender. The athletes are ready to play and I expect good things will happen this season."