Braves expecting to be competitive
Seven letterwinners return to lead Menahga volleyball team
Having seven key players returning has Lindsey White expecting to put a competitive team on the floor as she begins her second season as the head coach of the Menahga volleyball team.
The Braves went 3-4 for fifth place in Park Region Conference play and ended with an 11-14 overall record. Menahga received the No. 6 seed in the North for the Section 6A tournament and defeated Rothsay in the first round before being eliminated by Wadena-Deer Creek. New York Mills went undefeated to claim the conference title and defeated Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley in the section championship match.
Returning to lead the Braves are seniors Rena Pinoniemi, Tara Hendrickson and Jessica Pietila; junior Elly Hillukka; and sophomores Janie Tormanen, Maryn Pinoniemi and Lela Peterson. Rena Pinoniemi and Hendrickson will be the middle hitters with Pietila being a right-side hitter. Hillukka and Tormanen will be outside hitters, Maryn Pinoniemi will serve as the libero and Peterson will be a defensive specialist.
Rena Pinoniemi returns after earning all-conference honorable mention honors with 239 digs, 23 ace serves and 21 kills in 20 matches last season. Hendrickson started all 25 matches and compiled 164 kills, 55 blocks, 50 digs and 20 ace serves. Pietila also played in all 25 matches and had 182 digs, 34 kills and 29 ace serves. Hillukka tallied 77 kills and 53 digs in 21 matches. Tormanen had 56 kills and 41 digs in nine matches, Maryn Pinoniemi had 130 digs in 16 matches and Peterson had 74 digs in 16 matches.
Seniors Annie Lake, Samantha Pfeifer and Erica Kicker along with sophomores Julia Besonen, Allie Pfeifer and Amanda Lake will look to provide depth and help fill in for last year’s senior class of Madi Marjamaa, Olivia Yliniemi, Cierra Ahlf and Jamie Erno. Marjamaa (506 set assists, 43 ace serves, 89 kills, 203 digs) earned all-conference honors as the starting setter while Yliniemi (91 kills, 71 digs) earned all-conference honorable mention honors. Ahlf led the team with 241 digs while adding 133 kills.
Starting the season on junior varsity are juniors Jadeyn Dissmore, Samara Butler and Samara Kicker; and sophomores Claire Pinoniemi, Crystal Haataja, Meagan Holtz, Mercedes Baker, Michaela Skoog and Trinity Heegard.
“We have some key older girls that will be great leaders to our younger girls. I expect us to compete well with each team and to grow with each game. We need to better our best each day and stay consistent in what we do,” said White, who will be assisted by Logan Redetzke and Nicole Fedie. “Remaining consistent, making adjustments when needed, having a positive mindset and using our strengths to our advantage (will be keys to a successful season). I feel we will be competitive this season. The girls have put in a lot of work this summer and I look forward to that work paying off.”