Northwestern volleyball team hoping for another strong year
Jamie Stendahl hasn't encountered any surprises so far in her first year as head coach of the Northwestern High School volleyball team. Previously serving as the Tigers' assistant coach, Stendahl said everyone around her has helped make the trans...
Jamie Stendahl hasn't encountered any surprises so far in her first year as head coach of the Northwestern High School volleyball team. Previously serving as the Tigers' assistant coach, Stendahl said everyone around her has helped make the transition to head coach easy.
"I've had a lot of support from players, parents, the school, the community, and then of course my coaching staff," Stendahl said. "So it's been great."
The Tigers claimed the Heart O' North Conference title last season, finishing with a nearly perfect 13-1 HON record. They ended the season at 26-6-2 overall.
Although many strong players return for NHS, one major gap in the Tigers team needing attention is the libero position. Nikki Hughes, who graduated last year, served as Northwestern's back row defensive specialist and holds the school record in career digs and digs in a season, with 645 and 1,392 digs respectively. She was also named the 2007 Daily Telegram Volleyball Player of the Year.
"There are a lot of girls that have stepped up into that role," Stendahl said. "Obviously Nikki Hughes is an amazing player and big shoes to fill, so I think it's going to take a team effort."
Paige Pearson is one of the team's returning defensive specialists who has helped fill Hughes' old role. Stendahl said Pearson is doing nicely, but the Tigers do not have a set libero as of now. Who plays libero may be decided day by day.
In all, the Tigers lost seven seniors from last year's 15-player varsity roster. Of those, only Hughes was named to the HON All-Conference teams, but each played added to the team's success.
Returning for NHS are three all-conference players. Junior Anna Morgan was named to the first team last year, and seniors Lindsay Garay and Lindsay Taipale were named to the second team. Garay and Taipale are this year's team captains, and both think the Tigers will overcome the loss of last year's senior class.
"I think we're doing really good," Taipale said. "It's really competitive so far."
"We lost a lot of people, but everyone's really stepping up," Garay said.
Stendahl said underclassmen will have to earn a place on the team but could certainly see some playing time.
Besides the challenge of filling new roles this season, two of the Tigers' returning leaders have just recovered from knee injuries. Morgan and Garay each underwent surgery in spring to repair tears in their medial menisci, and lateral meniscus in the case of Morgan.
Both players are back on the floor now, and Stendahl said you can't even tell they had surgery.
"There's sharp pains here and there, but skill-wise, they're working hard," she said. "I would say they're ready to go."
Garay, who is back as the team's setter after taking up the position for the first time last season, said her knee isn't bothering her at all.
"I think I'm fine," Garay said. "I did weights all summer. I've been running and biking."
NHS expects to be in the running for its third straight HON title but also expect some intense matches from old foes.
The Tigers' growing rivalry with Hayward is alive and well this season. The Hurricanes ended the volleyball team's season last year by defeating the Tigers 3-2 in the regional championship game and also put the only blemish on the Tigers' otherwise perfect HON record.
"Hayward will be one of our biggest competitors," Stendahl said. I think they graduated one senior and then the rest are returning, so they have some solid players returning."
Also competing with Hayward and NHS for the conference title will be Barron. Barron has a strong volleyball program and routinely poses a good challenge for the Tigers.
The team Northwestern is really focused on, though, is Hayward. Garay and Taipale said the Tigers are off to a good start so far. If the team keep progressing at the current rate, the seniors feel NHS can defeat Hayward.
"Everybody hates Hayward," Garay said.
"And that's not a lie," Taipale added.
The Tigers host Hayward Oct. 7, and before then, Stendahl would like to see the team improve in a few areas.
Inconsistent passing has been a problem for NHS so far, and the Tigers are also struggling to come up with blocks. Stendahl said blocking is more difficult for the Tigers this season because the team is shorter, but it's also a matter of proper timing.
"I think it's something we can improve upon, which we've been working on in practice as well," Stendahl said.
Team communication is a strength for NHS this year, but the Tigers want to be known as one of the loudest teams in the conference. Last season they were deemed quiet, and Stendahl said they are just as quiet this year, if not quieter.
But even if they don't show it vocally, Stendahl said the Tigers have a strong drive to win this season.
"They're aggressive," she said. "They'll go for it."
The Tiger's first conference game is Sept. 11 against Chetek. They open the season tonight against non-conference Ironwood, Mich.
2008 Northwestern Varsity Volleyball Roster
2. Teslah Bastien 12
3. Christine Kessler 11
4. Brianna Teigen 12
5. Lindsay Taipale 12
6. Lisa Follis 12
7. Melissa Hogfeldt 11
8. Anna Morgan 11
9. Jaclyn Amys 11
10. Paige Pearson 12
11. Lindsay Garay 12
13. Kayla Ogren 12
14. Megan Hogfeldt 11
2008 Tigers Schedule
Aug. 28 at Ironwood, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 4 at Esko, 7 p.m.
Sept. 8 Hurley, 7 p.m.
Sept. 11 vs. Chetek, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13 at Hudson, 9 a.m.
Sept. 16 vs. Spooner, 7 p.m.
Sept. 18 at Cumberland, 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 Zosel Tournament, 9 a.m.
Sept. 23 vs. Bloomer, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 at Ladysmith, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 vs. Ashland, 7 p.m.
Oct. 2 at Barron, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 vs. Hayward, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 Conference Tournament at Hayward
Oct. 16 Conference Tournament at Spooner
Oct. 21 Regionals, 7 p.m.
Oct. 24 Regionals, 7 p.m.
Oct. 25 Regionals, 7 p.m.
Oct. 30 Sectionals, 7 p.m.
Nov. 1 Sectional Finals, 7 p.m.