Area volleyball teams prepare for start of season

Moose Lake-Willow River Experienced Rebels will rely on defense The key to this year's Moose Lake Lake-Willow River volleyball team can be described with just one word: defense. Not the biggest team around, the Rebels will let their defense guide...

Carlton block
Hermantown's Katie Thun (6) tries to split the Carlton block of Brooke Camps (8) and Elle Fastland (10) during the 2010 Lake Superior Conference volleyball jamboree at Superior High School on Tuesday evening. Jed Carlson/

Moose Lake-Willow River

Experienced Rebels will rely on defense

The key to this year's Moose Lake Lake-Willow River volleyball team can be described with just one word: defense.

Not the biggest team around, the Rebels will let their defense guide them, along with experience.

ML-WR returns five of their six starters, all hoping to improve on their so-so season from a year ago.


"They're looking alright," said second-year head coach Michael Edmond. "We have some older kids, but a lot of younger kids, too. That experience is going help us, as the older ones will get the younger ones up to speed with their leadership."

A quartet of seniors is back on the court for ML-WR, including Emily Wasche, Alyssa Jusczak, Sheenagh Caroline and Maddie Adamczak.

"Our strength will be our defense; we don't have a lot of height," said Edmond. "We're still looking for that offensive spark and someone to step in and get a kill for us."

The defensive-minded Rebels open the season Tuesday, Aug. 31, when they welcome Hinckley-Finlayson to the Moose Lake gymnasium.


Soukkala, Bulldogs are ready for season

Carlton volleyball coach Barb Soukkala couldn't recall how many years she's coached the Bulldogs.

"It's been a long time," she said laughing, counting the years.


For the record, Soukkala's been at the Bulldog helm since 1993. As always, she's getting her girls ready for another solid season.

"We're getting better," said Soukkala. "We've practiced a little less than a week, but they're coming around nicely."

The Bulldogs return to the hardwood looking to improve on last year's 17-13 mark that saw them go all the way to the section semifinals.

But, after graduating go-to hitters Sarah Aili, Tayler Carpenter, Brittany Zime and setter Katie Bloom, Soukkala's team will debut a new cast this season.

"We had a good group of seniors last year," Soukkala said, adding that, even though they're young, she's got some girls filling those roles.

Senior McKinzie Belanger and sophomores Clarissa Nelson and Brooke Camps all return for Carlton. The trio of back-row players from last year is now adjusting to the front lines this fall.

"The game is a little quicker, but they're adjusting," continued Soukkala. "We'll be busy; we'll see where we're at during the end of the season."

The Bulldogs open their season Sept. 9 when they host Silver Bay.



Bombers to recover from dynamic season

Last year was a historic one for the Barnum volleyball team. From their 23-win season, to their Polar League title and their historic win against arch rival Esko, the Bombers nearly did it all. This year is a tad different.

"We won't top last year," said seventh-year head coach Corina Newman wearing a smile. "It's a whole new team, but they're working hard."

Barnum lost nearly their entire starting cast from last year's squad, including the coach's daughter and all-star athlete, Katrina Newman.

"There are a lot of big shoes to fill," coach Newman said.

The Bombers return a pair of experience players in Corina's other daughter, Jessica Newman, as well as junior Karianna Duesler.

However, that pair of go-to players will be in different spots this season, as Newman, a setter a year ago, will move to outside hitter, and Duesler will fill the role of setter rather than libero.


Despite switching things up a bit, the Bombers shouldn't fail to impress.

"A lot of these girls didn't even have varsity uniforms last year," Newman said, "but these girls are athletes. As long as we improve and the younger ones learn that this is a fun game, that's all that you can ask for."

Barnum opens their year Tuesday, Aug. 31, when the bus heads to Rush City.


Cardinals are looking scrappy this year

Looking at the Cromwell-Wright volleyball team this fall, fans may notice they're smaller than most - but the Cardinals don't let it phase them.

"They just keep stepping up and continue to work hard," said 15th-year head coach Lori Wester. "Our defense is good."

Keying on their defense, the smaller-sized Cardinals have learned a scrappy style of play that their coach enjoys watching.


"They know that nothing can hit that floor," said Wester. "We have to play smart ball and, hopefully, that smartness and agility of ours will overcome the height we will come up against."

Wester mentioned that Cromwell-Wright lost a solid senior class a year ago, including a handful of girls who played varsity for years.

Yet, the Cardinals return four girls with leadership qualifications in senior captain hitters Lisa Peterson and Emily Hendrickson, as well as juniors Makayleigh Cahoon and setter Marlene Wester.

"We don't have a set six girls yet," said Wester, "but we're ready to go."

Cromwell-Wright will open their season Tuesday, Aug. 31, when they travel McGregor.


Wrens are rebuilding with young squad

In Wrenshall, the volleyball numbers are thin.


However, head coach Denise North isn't going to let that get in the way of her Wrens being competitive this fall.

"It's a building year," said the 12th-year head coach.

The Wrens aim to improve from a year ago, despite losing seven seniors. Look for leadership from 6-foot-2 junior Maria Burcar, and for a number of young players to step up. The Wrens' youngest varsity starter is just an eighth-grader.

"We have some girls who have never even played JV and are on varsity now," said North. "They're still getting to know each other on the court, but they're having fun and sweating a lot."

Wrenshall was competitive at the Polar League Jamboree on Tuesday in Esko.

"We have young players," continued North, seeing improvement Tuesday. "But they're working hard, and enjoying volleyball."

Wrenshall will host Lakeview Christian Academy in their season-opener Tuesday, Aug. 31.


Speedy Falcons are quick and athletic

Don't confuse the AlBrook volleyball team for a track and field squad - they're that fast.

But that's just how head coach Brad Olesiak likes it.

"We're small, quick and athletic," said the third-year head man guiding the Falcons. "We'll be very competitive."

AlBrook is hoping to up their mark from a year ago, despite graduating six seniors.

Four experienced players are back. All-St. Louis County Conference junior outside hitter Kourtney Karppinen leads a returning cast which features senior defensive specialist Cassidy Capriglione, as well as junior outside hitters Maija Fremling and Danielle Jakubek.

"The girls seem very excited to get going; they even stay after practice to play," said Olesiak. "We've been doing a lot of drills at practice for a week now and we finally figured out our rotation. The girls are getting along well and hopefully they'll gel soon. We'll see."

The speedy Falcons hit the court Monday, Aug. 30, when they travel to Babbitt-Embarrass. Their home-opener is Wednesday, Sept. 1, when they host perennial power Cook.

Fond du Lac Ojibwe

Ogichidaa are aiming for improvement

Last fall, Dale Sautbine recalled his Fond du Lac Ojibwe volleyball squad opened the season a little bit weak.

Entering his 25th season, he's hoping for a better start.

"We're excited," said the long-time FDL school teacher. "We're hoping to be competitive."

Though a slow start plagued the Ogichidaa, Sautbine said they were definitely competitive later in the season.

Having lost three seniors from last year, FDL returns a trio of experienced players this fall in Jenny Abramowski, Kasey Shabaiash and Amber Fox. Sautbine hopes their momentum continues through in 2010.

"I'm looking for those girls to take charge," he said. "We have some younger players but they're improving, too. Hopefully things pay off."

FDL will also have to fill the void of losing long-time assistant coach Rhonda Petite.

"That's a setback for us," Sautbine said. "And though our numbers are small and it's tough to get a headcount, more will show up when school starts, and that's good."

The Ogichidaa will open the year Sept. 7 when they travel to Cotton.

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