By Byron Higgin
It’s time to start volleyball.
Wow, hey, what’s that you say?
In some ways, it never ended.
In the minds of Minneota players, it was just yesterday they lost to Windom, one game short of the state tournament.
And all summer, Minneota girls have been honing their skills as they prepare for the season ahead.
“Some of our players played on a club team out of Marshall,” said Coach Stephanie Hennen.
They were: Leah Fadness played on the 18’s team and Taya Kockelman and Jenna Hennen played on the 16’s team and both teams qualified for nationals.
“They went to Miami to compete and both ended up in fifth place,” said Coach Hennen.
There were 48 teams in the American Class at Miami.
“Most, if not all of the rest of them played here in Minneota. We have our own program,” the coach said.
At the start, the Minneota Vikings are filled with confidence. Coach Hennen laughed, “I don’t know what to do about that,” she said. “And they’re so shy. Communicating is so hard for them,” she chuckled. Yeah, right!
Led by the spirited Fadness and Samantha Hennen, the Vikings are spilling over with excitement concerning the new season.
The coach calls Fadness “a character.” And says their fun-loving attitude helps them become a good team.
“Leah and Jenna have been on varsity since they were in eighth grade, so they’ve been playing together forever.”
Concerning this season the coach said,“I think passing will be a definite strength.”
She said, “It all starts with the pass. And we believe if we can get our pass up front we can do great things.”
This squad has “confidence in each other,” the coach said.
The two left side hitters are Fadness and Jenna Hennen while middle hitters are Samantha Hennen and Ashlynn Muhl. While the Vikings graduated their right-side hitters, it appears to be four girls competing for the spot. They are freshman Rachel Cheadle, Kayla Maeyert, Haylee Davis and Justene Davis.
She hopes the competition for the open spot will help create depth on this team.
The tallest member of the team, Taya Kockelman is the team setter. “The junior is in her third year. She set half time as a freshman and did all the setting a year ago,” said the coach.
As for Kockelman being the team’s tallest player, the coach said, “That just happened,” chuckled Coach Hennen.
Sophomore Kelsey Hennen is the Libero player and Minneota will count on her to receive hits and get the ball back up to the front row.
“This is her third year playing Libero,” and the coach said, “She does a great job, she’s so quick. She pops ‘em up.”
So what’s driving this team to succeed this year?
Coach Hennen feels most of these players, “Have been there (state meet) before and they know what it’s like. They also know what it’s like NOT to get there,” she shrugged.
Memories of last year’s loss to Windom in the section finals comes to mind.
“Last year they were disappointed in how they finished and they don’t want to do that again.”
The coach feels a strong volleyball tradition helps and, “They know how to win. They just won’t settle for less.”
Coach Hennen feels Canby and Murray County will be good competition and MACCRAY will probably put a highly competitive team on the court.
But there’s one team that every girl seems to point to when you talk competition ... and that’s Windom.
“I think that’s who our girls think about because that’s who beat us the last two years (in the playoffs).
It’s not easy to forget Minneota’s big lead in the game against Windom, nor the way the Vikings eventually lost.
“They don’t want it to happen again,” said the coach.
The Viking volleyball team includes: (front row, left to right) Kayla Maeyaert and Ellen Buysse. Second row: Leah Fadness, Jamie Lundberg, Kaitlin Bottelberghe, Katelyn Kack, Kelsey Hennen, Megan McNeill and Sam Hennen. Back Row: Sara Maeyaert, Jenna Hennen, Ashlynn Muhl, Taya Kockelman, Haylee Davis, Rachel Cheadle and Justene Davis. Staff Photos by Byron Higgin.