By Jake Schroer
Crow River News Sports
In 2012, the Knights volleyball team made it to the section final. Last year, the team made it to the section semifinal before getting eliminated by the Osseo Orioles.
Ryan Dehnel says his team has some pretty high expectations for the season. The Knights go into battle this season without two talented athletes; Meagan Ghinter graduated and Maddie Albright had some back problems, ending her high school volleyball career.
“We have some of the best leadership I’ve ever had as a coach in our captains and seniors,” Dehnel said.
The Knights enter the 2014 season with eight seniors who Dehnel said are motivated to have a good season and stay committed to each other.
“They’re very enthusiastic about trying to see how good they can be despite not having any superstars.”
Dehnel said that senior setter Malissa LeClaire, a fifth year starter, will be the source of much of the team’s success this season.
“She brings a lot of experience between that and her offseason team that she plays on, and does a really nice job of running the offense and putting pressure on teams serving, so she’s going to be very important for us.”
Dehnel also mentioned Kaitlin Olson and Kate Drimel, two seniors competing for the libero job. Other returning players include Lauren Sukalski, Anna Nietfeld, Breanna Goenner, Missy Hackenmueller and Freya Macari-Hanson.
Dehnel knows the team is committed to raising the bar, which is a tall order with the competition within and outside of the conference, he said.
“I think they believe and I believe that getting back at least to the section semifinals is a realistic goal for us. Beyond that will probably depend a little bit on who we match up against, but their goal is to put together a great season where they’re playing at a high level consistently.”
Dehnel said he really looked forward to several matches this season, but especially the match against Cambridge-Isanti, which he believes might decide the conference champion.
“I don’t know that we have very many matches on the schedule I’m not looking forward to,” he said. He also looks forward to three tournaments on the schedule.
The girls got together and played in a team camp during the summer, Dehnel said. The camp helped with the team’s progress, he added. He noted that he has already seen some positive things in preseason practice.
“Our seniors are not seniors who are looking for their turn to be in charge, but more their turn to be an example and to try and lead the younger players,” he said.
The 2014 season will probably feature the most exciting and entertaining brand of volleyball in the past few years, Dehnel said.
“Our crowd is usually an important part of that, but I think it’s going to be an even higher level of energy between the team and the crowd than it has been in years past.”
The volleyball season begins September 2 with a home match against Minnetonka.