Panthers return strong core
The Rugby High School volleyball team is in position to take District 11. One of the few teams on which graduation didn’t take a toll, the Panthers return all but one of their starters from last year.
After a difficult season below the .500 mark, the team still advanced to the regional tournament. Fifth-year coach Jessica Fritz plans on leading a more consistent squad.
“I know the girls have been working hard and playing hard,” Fritz said. “I’m hoping for us to be one of the top teams in the district.”
Fritz talked about the team’s work ethic, and how the Panthers traveled the state, playing in local summer tournaments and big leagues, including the Devils Lake League.
The leaders this year will have to step up to make this team consistent. Shea Heidlebaugh and Alyssa Mattern are fighting to replace graduate Allison Volk’s spot as a setter. Recently, hitter Helen Johnson injured her ankle, so building depth is vital. Johnson broke bones in her lower leg and will likely miss the entire season.
But other key players and seven seniors, including Elizabeth Blessum, Emily Stier, Darby Deckert and ReeAnn Chirstianson, have the talent and attitude to bring this team a district championship.
Rugby sees its first action at the Bottineau Invitational on Sept. 6.
District power Bottineau reloading
Graduation hit hard for the Bottineau Stars. Losing five starting players is rough on a team. But coach Steve Dunrud is hopeful this year. His team returns a few starters from last year, including junior Stephanie Brenden and senior Kennedy Olson.
“I’ve been a part of this team for two years now,” Dunrud said. “I’d say it’s tradition that’s helped our team. The girls love playing volleyball. They are a good group to work with. They worked hard and won because they worked hard and not simply because they’re Bottineau.
“I think our district will be pretty competitve,” he said. “We lost one team, Dunseith to District 8. But there are a lot of good teams. Westhope-Newburg returns a lot of players. Rugby finished real strong and only lost a setter. Velva always seems to have a good squad.
“I think if you look at the the top four teams from last year, you’ll get a good idea of who’ll be on top.”
After winning the district crown last year, Bottineau was upset in the region’s first round.
The Bottineau Stars play their opening game on Sept. 2 against the team that eliminated them – Des Lacs-Burlington.
Raiders plan to compete with young lineup
The Drake-Anamoose Raiders are one of the district’s youngest teams. Starting a freshman and two sophomores, the Raiders still expect to compete.
“My girls work well together and they all work really hard at their game,” coach Annie Jo Arnold said. “I have a lot of young talent that I think will get us pretty far.”
In the tough Region 6, full of powerhouses like Bottineau and District 12’s Bishop Ryan and Des Lacs-Burlington, talent will go a long way. Arnold said the program is lucky to have graduated just one key player from last year, and she sees her team as a top team in the district.
“I only started last year and everyone’s been telling me Bottineau is always good,” she said. “But we played well last year and I think we could beat them this year.”
Arnold mentioned the players she is watching with hope and seeing potential. Freshman setter Bobbie Jo Kuntz adds her talents to the team this year and will start the Raiders’ first game in Turtle Lake-Mercer-Mclusky on Aug 29.
New-look Aggies with lots of holes to fill
Finishing with a losing record is tough. Graduating six seniors makes it tougher. Now, Velva will have to start from scratch in order to do better than last year.
“Our setter will be the most competitive spot to fill,” coach Molly Terveen said. “We have a couple of different candidates vying for that position.”
But the Aggies still have leaders they can turn to. Sadie Hackman, Morgan Effertz and Casey Thomas are the three seniors looking to lead the team out of regionals. Terveen said she’s looking at many juniors, like Shaylyn Fevold and Hannah Weidler, to help out and lead.
With the help of these players, Terveen sees her team playing for the district title.
“We are definately capable of (winning the district title),” Terveen said. “The regional comeptition is always tough, but we are hoping the time we put in during the offseason will help us be more prepared for those games.”
Velva plays its first game at the Bottineau Invitational Tournament on Sept. 6.
Eagles loaded with talented senior class
Last year, this volleyball team was the underdog in many ways. But this year, Westhope-Newberg hopes to shed that reputation and take the district.
After losing only one senior, coach Katie Fluhrer can picture them coming out on top.
“A lot of teams around us lost a lot of players,” Fluhrer said. “We come in with a good attitude. We can do it. But it all depends on who comes to play that night.
“(The winner) could be a toss up. The teams in the area lost a lot but their JV teams are good. I’d like to think we are, too, but you never know.”
And hopes are running high as a large number of returning players should help get some big wins. Rugby and Velva were two district wins that boosted morale for the season last year.
“We were underdogs,” Fluhrer added. “They were some top teams. It was cool to actually beat the top dog.”
Westhope-Newberg plays its first game against St. John on Sept. 2.
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