After losing just two seniors to graduation last year, Emmetsburg's Lady E-Hawks have a renewed sense of optimism for the 2012 volleyball season. Head Coach Andrea Accola-Sabin and Assistant Coach Tim Rodemeyer have 27 girls reporting in grades 9-12 and have the luxury of five returning letterwinners to provide leadership on the court this season.
While the loss of Paige Naig and Jayme Penrod left a couple of key holes in the Lady E-Hawks' varsity lineup after last season, a core group of four seniors, starting with middle hitter-right hitter Jacque Carlson, setter-outside hitter Whitney Kibbie, middle hitter Miranda Vlasman and libero player Britni Will return to build the varsity unit. The season will be a test for Kibbie, who was injured early last season and missed the last two-thirds of the season, as she will work to reassert her position as setter in the offense. Also joining the letterwinners' group is sophomore Alexa Naig, a setter, who was pressed into duty last year after Kibbie's departure.
A fifth senior re-joins the program this season in the form of Emily Noll, an outside hitter. Noll had to bow out of the program last season due to illness but has rejoined the varsity squad and fits into the core group well. The final senior on the team is new to the program, as Katie Grandstaff comes from neighboring Ruthven-Ayrshire as a middle hitter.
A strong group of juniors will be called on to fill in positions in the varsity rotation this season, starting with Kendall Deitering, as an outside hitter and setter. Joining Deitering will be Kayla Goeders, an outside hitter, Devyn White, an outside hitter, BriAna Campbell as an outside hitter-right hitter, Haily Malm, an outside hitter and defensive specialist and Staci Schmeling, a right hitter. Rounding out the junior members of the squad are Peyton Schnell and Mercedes DePue.
There are five sophomores who will also contribute to the overall picture, starting with Alexa Naig, along with Taylor Knight, an outside hitter, Ashton Connelly, a middle hitter, Michaela Rehm, a setter and defensive specialist and Katie Ruiz, an outside hitter.
A total of eight freshmen players join the program this season, moving up from the middle school level of competition. Those players include Laura Moser, Cierra McAllister, Bailey Garretls, Kiersten Duhn, Olivia Hampe, Katie Mason, Avery Ringlaben and Kyla Weisbrod. Serving as managers for the Lady E-Hawks this season are Katie Hoffman and Shelbie Christensen.
While Emmetsburg struggled through a 0-7 Lakes Conference campaign last season, they were able to play hard and compete in every match throughout the season. Knowing that they may be overlooked by some in the league doesn't bother Emmetsburg, as it only adds to the optimism to be able to show what the team is capable of.
"We know Western Christian will be very good as always," noted Accola-Sabin, who is in her fifth year at the helm of the Emmetsburg program and 21st year as a coach. "But, we hope to be able to surprise some teams this season with our experience and hustle."
After a weekend appearance in the Humboldt Tournament on Aug. 25, Emmetsburg opens the regular season tonight (Tuesday) Aug. 28, at Laurens-Marathon against the Chargers at 6 p.m.