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Seniors lead Tiger, Spartan volleyball teams

Superior High School’s Olyvia Plunkett (13) dives for a ball during a match with Ashland during the Lake Superior Conference Jamboree in the SHS gym Wednesday night. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Both the Tiger and Spartan volleyball teams are loaded with upperclassmen this season.

Northwestern has nine seniors on its varsity roster and Superior has eight.

“We had to do a lot of player evaluation with nine seniors and some juniors we know can contribute,” said Charlie Hessel, Northwestern High School head coach. “We needed to really see where each person is at individually.”

Brenda Pluntz, Superior High School head coach, said the bond between her large group of seniors is one of the team’s greatest strengths.

“The eight seniors have been playing together since they were freshmen,” she said. “They know who hits what and who sets where. They’re very comfortable with each other.”

The Spartans and Tigers met Wednesday for a scrimmage in Superior.

Northwestern begins its regular season at home Thursday against Drummond, and Superior will play at the Marshfield Invitational Sept. 5.

Northwestern Tigers

Consistency is the goal for the 2015 Northwestern High School volleyball team.

A lack of consistency caused problems for the Tigers last year, and Hessel said it remains a concern.

“Until we prove otherwise, it is something that we will be focusing on,” he said. “Scoring our own points goes along with that — earning points rather than scoring on opponent errors.”   

The Tigers lost four seniors from last year’s team, but they return three all-conference players. Middle hitter Cheyenne Johnson and libero Alyssa Frick were named to the second team, and setter Daisy Mack was an honorable mention selection.

Johnson accumulated 186 kills, 58 digs and 26.5 blocks for the Tigers last season. Frick led Northwestern on defense with 345 digs. She also led the team with 37 ace serves and had a 94.2 serving percentage.

Left hitters Taya McClure and Lexi Janigo also return, and juniors Sara Lahti and Madison Trautt are prospective starters.

“We know that serve-receive is a thing that we need to work on,” Hessel said. “We have to be consistent because we’ve got hitters that can really put it away. So we have the ability with our second and third hit to run a pretty fast, high-powered offense. We just need the first contact on our side to be more consistent so we can get into a little bit of a flow.”

Northwestern has not won a Heart O’ North Conference title in volleyball since 2007. The Tigers finished in fourth place last year with a 7-7 record and were 15-13 overall.

Hessel said he expects the same top three teams from last year — Barron, Hayward and Bloomer — to be in the hunt for the conference title this season.

“They were at the top last season and have good programs,” he said. “We expect to be in the mix as well.”

Barron went a perfect 14-0 in conference play last season while the Hurricanes were 12-2 and the Blackhawks were 10-4.

Barron lost three first team all-conference players from last year but returns first-team all-conference setter Kristin Doriott and second-team right hitter Kyra Platzek.

Bloomer must replace all-conference middle hitters Allison Hassemer and Kali Pecha but returns first-team outside hitter Chandler Zwiefelhofer. The Hurricanes lost three of their five all-conference players from 2014.

“We are trying a few new things but are pushing to get back to a quick, high-powered offense,” Hessel said. “If we can do that, I think we could have a good year.”

2015 Northwestern Tigers

2/15. Alyssa Frick.......................................................... 12 Libero

4. Hannah Lier................................................................. 12  L

5. Taya McClure............................................................. 12  L

6. Sara Lahti.................................................................... 11  M

7. Madison Trautt.......................................................... 11  R

8. Lexi Prior.................................................................... 11  S

9. Breanne Tapani.......................................................... 12  DS

12. Allison Eller.............................................................. 12  M

13. Kaitlin Moroney....................................................... 12  DS

14. CassidyFriend......................................................... 11  L

16. Lexi Janigo............................................................... 12  L

17. Cheyenne Johnson.................................................. 12  M

22. Daisy Mack............................................................... 12  S

Head coach: Charlie Hessel

Assistant coaches: Cindy Morgan and Farrah Wirtz

Team manager: Ciara Johnson

Northwestern Tigers

2015 Volleyball Schedule

Wed., Aug 26..................................... at Superior Scrimmage, noon

Thur., Sep 3....................................... vs. Drummond, 7 p.m.

Thur., Sep 10..................................... at Bloomer, 7 p.m.

Sat., Sep 12....................................... at Osceola Tourney, 9 a.m.

Tue., Sep 15...................................... vs. Hayward, 7 p.m.

Thur., Sep 17..................................... at Spooner, 7 p.m.

Tue., Sep 22...................................... vs. Cumberland, 7 p.m.

Thur., Sep 24..................................... at Chetek, 7 p.m.

Sat., Sep 26....................................... hosting NHS Invite, 10 a.m.

Thur., Oct 1........................................ vs. Ladysmith, 7 p.m.

Sat., Oct 3.......................................... at New Richmond Invite, 9 a.m.

Tue., Oct 6......................................... vs. Barron, 7 p.m.

Sat., Oct 10........................................ HON Tourney at Chetek

Thur., Oct 15...................................... HON Tourney at Spooner, 5:45 p.m.

Superior Spartans

The Spartans finished 5-2 in the Lake Superior Conference last season to take fourth place with 12 points. Cloquet went 6-0 (24 points) to win the title, while Ashland was 5-1 (20 points) and Hermantown was 4-2 (16 points).

Pluntz expects the top half of the conference to be similar this year, with Superior, Cloquet and Hermantown all vying for the top place.

“We’ve got some heavy hitters, and we’ve also got some very good defensive players,” Pluntz said.

The Spartans have to replace key players from last year’s team: middle hitter Lily Kline and setter Nicole Sorenson, who was the team’s top server in 2014. Sorenson finished her senior season with 38 ace serves, 88 digs and 385 set assists. Kline averaged 3 kills and 2.4 blocks per game.

Whitney Larson returns as one of Superior’s top hitters and will serve as a team captain along with fellow seniors Kearra Thimm, and Olyvia Plunkett.

Sage Olson and Amber Welsh are also expected to be big hitters for the Spartans, while Plunkett and Allie Holen take over at setter.

“They all are friends and they work well together,” Pluntz said. “They support each other.”

Team unity is Superior’s greatest strength at this point in the season, Pluntz said, and she hopes to see the Spartans capitalize on that camaraderie over the course of the year.

If the Spartans continue to work well together, Pluntz believes they will improve upon last year’s overall record of 12-18.

“We’d like to make it the opposite,” she said.

2015 Superior Spartans

2. Hannah Kolanczyk..................................................... 11  M

3. Jordyn O’Brien........................................................... 10  M

6/18. Abbie DeMeyer.................................................... 12  DS

7/37. Kearra Thimm....................................................... 11  Libero

8. Sage Olson................................................................. 12  L/M

9. Allie Holen.................................................................. 12  S

10. Alex Killian................................................................ 12  R

11. Maddie LaFlamme.................................................. 12  L/R

12. Whitney Larson........................................................ 12  M

13. Olyvia Plunkett......................................................... 12  S

21. Amber Welsh............................................................ 12  L

24. Caleigh Jensen......................................................... 9    L/M

25. Payton Schuster...................................................... 9    L

32. MacKenzie Stariha................................................... 11  S

Head coach: Brenda Pluntz

Assistant coaches: Samantha Cross and Kelsey Swanson

Volleyball

Head Coach: Brenda Pluntz

Tue., Aug. 25...................................... at D.C. Everest Quad, 1 p.m.

Wed., Aug. 26.................................... home scrimmage, noon

Wed., Aug. 26.................................... host LSC jamboree, 5 p.m.

Thur., Aug. 27.................................... at Northwestern Quad, 4 p.m.

Sat., Sept. 5....................................... at Marshfield Invite, 9 a.m.

Sat., Sept. 12..................................... at Hudson Invite, 10 a.m.

Thur., Sept. 17................................... at Duluth Denfeld, 7 p.m.

Tue., Sept. 22.................................... vs. Hibbing, 7 p.m.

Thur., Sept. 24................................... at Duluth Marshall, 7 p.m.

Thur., Oct. 1....................................... vs. Proctor, 7 p.m.

Sat., Oct. 3......................................... at Duluth East Invite, 8 a.m.

Tue., Oct. 6........................................ at Duluth East, 7 p.m.

Thur., Oct. 8....................................... vs. Rice Lake, 7 p.m.

Sat., Oct. 10....................................... at Esko Invite, 9 a.m.

Mon,, Oct. 12..................................... vs. Hermantown, 7 p.m.

Tue., Oct. 13...................................... at Ashland, 7 p.m.

Thur., Oct. 15..................................... at Cloquet, 7 p.m.

Tue., Oct. 20...................................... vs. Duluth Denfeld, 7 p.m.

Thur., Oct. 22..................................... Regional Semi

Sat., Oct. 24....................................... Regional Final

Thur., Oct. 29..................................... Sectional Semi at Marshfield

Sat., Oct. 31....................................... Sectional Final at Wausau West

Nov. 5-7............................................. State at Green Bay

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