North metro volleyball looks as competitive as ever

As the 2012 high school volleyball season gets under way, we take a look at what to expect from these local teams.

Andover

Spring Lake Park Panthers reach for the spike during an Andover contest last year. Several Panthers return to the varsity line-up this season. File photo

Spring Lake Park Panthers reach for the spike during an Andover contest last year. Several Panthers return to the varsity line-up this season. File photo

Andover tradition of competitive volleyball remains strong in 2012 after making its fifth consecutive appearance at state last fall.

Fresh off a third-place finish in the Class AAA state tournament last November, the Huskies lost Karlie Hauer, Janelle Rupkalvis and Katylin Turner to graduation, the team’s top three leaders in kills.

But Olivia Graham, McKensey Miller, Laura Peterson, Jessica Hayko and Marissa McNallan are back to lead the attack.

McNallan handled serving duties in 2011 leading the team in assists and digs. Graham will be counted on to block and kill along with newcomers Alex Monson, Maria Noel and Alyssa Weiss.

“I think we will have a successful season: top of the conference and hopefully a section title again,” head coach Connie Huberty said. “(The goals is) to out hustle every team and communicate loud and effectively. We lost some height so we will have to play stellar defense.”

With five girls back, the Huskies know what it takes to be successful at state.

“(They learned) the importance of coming together as a team for a common goal, camaraderie, to stay calm and talk themselves through difficult times on the court and always be supportive of each other,” Huberty said.

 

Anoka

The Tornadoes have Kassi and Kelci Green, a fast middle combination, back swinging away along with Megan Lindenfelser, who continues to get stronger at the outside.

Newcomer Mikayla Hong is hitting a heavy ball on the outside.

“Our strength is our blocking and depth of hitters,” head coach Chris Fenwick said. “I feel I have at least four girls that can hit the ball in.”

Most of the players have been playing hometown club volleyball for the past three years, so they have chemistry in place when the season starts. They’re also not just volleyball players, but athletes.

“Many play other sports and don’t have the time or money to play at the larger more successful clubs like Northern Lights, M1 or Minnesota Select,” Fenwick said. “So if they are successful then this is a great accomplishment under the circumstances.”

Still, the Northwest Suburban Conference is as tough as any with Blaine, Andover, Centennial, Osseo and Elk River all expected to remain strong.

“I am hoping to compete with all of them but the goal is to prepare for sections,” Fenwick said. “At sections I think the goal as always is to win, and to do so the path normally goes through Andover who is always strong.”

 

St. Francis

After tying for second place in the North Suburban Conference last season, St. Francis has hopes to cut that number in half in 2012 thanks to a strong lineup of veterans.

“We are strong with four front row starters returning,” coach Tracey Norton said.

Maggie Ewen returns after earning all state honorable mention at outside hitter in 2011. She joins Angie Roberts, who was an all conference setter, and Christa Norrgard at middle blocker.

“The goal is to hopefully top last year’s finish of second place in the conference,” Norton said. “The goal is to play consistently all season and win all the close matches.”

 

Spring Lake Park 

Several Panthers are back off a team that went 8-18 in 2011, including Lexi Luedtke, who was an all conference Libero in 2011. She’s joined by Alaina Fellenz and Miranda Axen leading the attack at the middle.

Sophomore Bailey Isrelson looks to step in at setter as her first year of varsity.

“She is a quick and versatile setter who will also hit some right side for us,” coach Sarah Herlofsky said.

Isrelson is joined by classmate Emily Borene, who will be counted on to help the defense.

“The team this year has good chemistry,” Herlofsky said. “They are a coachable group of athletes who take direction well and have a real passion for the sport.

“This team has a wonderful sense of humor. They are able to joke around with each other but not lose focus in practice or on the court. There is a real sense of camaraderie and compassion for each other. I believe this is unique and you don’t always see this with a high school sports team,” Herlofsky said.

Volleyball 2012 season began the week of Aug. 23. Section play-offs begin Oct. 22; state tournament is Nov. 8-10 at Xcel Energy Center.

(Teams profiled here are the teams in the Northwest Suburban and North Suburban conferences which responded to inquiries for this purpose. The others which we contacted did not respond.)

Andy Rogers is at andy.rogers@ecm-inc.com


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