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Tigers look to defend conference title, contend in section

Leading the Nevis volleyball team this season will be captains (from left) Andrea Dudley, Kia Heide, Jessica Swanda and Ashley Pyburn. Submitted photo

Heidi Wormley is expecting another successful season from the Nevis volleyball team.

The Nevis head coach has six returning letterwinners from last year's team that went 7-0 to win the Northland Conference title for the 11th year in a row and finished with a 19-11 overall record. The Tigers earned the No. 2 seed in the Section 5A North B bracket and opened section play with wins over Bertha-Hewitt and Walker-Hackensack-Akeley before being eliminated by Rush City.

Nevis should be able to duplicate those showings with the return of five all-conference players: seniors Andrea Dudley, Ashley Pyburn and Jessica Swanda; junior Kia Heide; and sophomore Sadie Thurner. Dudley, Pyburn and Thurner were all-conference players while Swanda and Heide received all-conference honorable mention honors. Dudley, Pyburn, Swanda and Heide will serve as captains. Junior Cora Umthun also returns and will provide depth as a defensive specialist.

Dudley returns at setter after tallying 662 set assists to surpass 2,000 in her career. Dudley put 340 of 351 serves in play with a team-leading 31 aces while tallying 70 kills, 27 blocks and 256 digs.

Pyburn returns at middle hitter after leading the Tigers with 240 kills and 58 blocks. Pyburn put 251 of 274 serves in play with 24 aces and had 214 digs and 23 set assists.

Thurner led the Tigers with 422 digs as a libero last season while putting 220 of 241 serves in play with 21 aces.

Heide finished second on the team with 234 kills as an outside hitter while going 51 for 56 in serves with nine aces and tallying 19 blocks and 58 digs.

Swanda returns at middle hitter after going 34 of 41 in serves with five aces and tallying 37 blocks, 63 kills and 56 digs.

Umthun went 199 for 214 in serves with 23 aces and had 18 set assists and 80 digs.

Looking to fill in for last year's senior crew of Montana Baker (who earned all-conference honors after posting 24 ace serves, 232 kills, 22 blocks and 97 digs as an outside hitter), Viviana Viloria (who earned all-conference honorable mention honors after posting 12 aces and 164 digs as a defensive specialist) and Madison Neyens (who had 14 aces, nine kills and 16 digs as an outside hitter) will be juniors Cole Mastley (outside hitter) and Jayden Vredenburg (outside hitter); sophomore Carol Keezer (defensive specialist); and freshmen Ava Isaacson (outside hitter), McKenna Frazier (outside hitter) and Maggie Carrier (defensive specialist).

"We expect to have a very good season," said Wormley, who will be assisted by Karly Drury and Taylor Drury. "We will better ourselves as a team one game at a time. We will be working towards our 12th straight conference championship. This will be no easy task with Pine River-Backus and Walker-Hackensack-Akeley being tough teams to beat. These same teams along with Rush City will give us great competition in our section. My goal for this team is to make it to state."

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