By Bob San
With almost the entire starting lineup back, the Maple Grove volleyball team is looking to be very competitive in the 2017 season.
Returning starters include all-conference senior outside hitter and captain Paige Hinze, junior all-conference right-side hitter Alexie Pryd, senior middle blockers Meghan Paidar, Maddie Black and Annika Peeler, senior defensive specialist Lauren Harrell, junior setter Zoe Brown and sophomore libero/all-arounder Ali Hinze.
Adding depth are newcomers freshman outside hitter Skylar Grey, freshman setter Megan Liu and junior defensive specialist Hallie Fuglestad.
Last year, the Crimson finished 14-13, placed in the middle of the conference with a 5-5 record and lost in the first round of sections to Rogers. Hopes are high in the MG camp for a much better season in 2017.
“The players are looking for a great season this year,” Crimson coach Sean Haugen said. “We have set some goals with one being mentally strong. And learning how to play at a high level without the mental issues teams tend to come up against.”
The Crimson are showing that they are both physically and mentally tough as they won three tough matches to open the season. They won in four games at Delano in the first match. Pryd led the way with 12 kills.
“Alexie is an explosive attacker and can play six rotations,” Haugen said.
Paige Hinze and Black had eight kills each and Peeler added six. Brown had 23 set assists and Liu 10. Ali Paige and Grey each had 20 digs, Hinze had 18 and Brown 13.
The Crimson followed with two 3-2 wins — at St. Michael-Albertville and at home against Spring Lake Park. Against the Knights, Paige Hinze had 16 kills, three blocks and 18 digs.
“Paige is our captain and a fifth-year starter. She is a solid all-around player,” Haugen said.
Pryd added eight kills and Black seven and Brown had 27 set assists. Grey and Ali Hinze again anchored the back row defense with 23 and 20 digs, respectively.
“Ali is our outside/libero/setter/right side hitter,” Haugen said. “Ali can play where she is needed and does well in all aspects of the game. Skylar’s skills are very good and will help in the success of the team. She can play all six rotations.”
Haugen feels the team is strong all-around.
“We should be solid in our serve receive passing with Paige Hinze, Ali Hinze and Skylar Grey,” he said. “Our setting with Zoe Brown and Megan Liu will be solid. We will be strong on both pins and good in the middle. Passing, defense, and blocking will be our strengths.”
With a deep and experienced team, the Crimson feel they can make some noise in the conference and sections.
“Champlin Park is one team to watch,” Haugen said. “They have a good core of returning players with some young new players. Centennial, Armstrong, Osseo, and Blaine may also be in the hunt for the conference.”
The Crimson next visit Blaine Thursday, Sept. 14, travel to Wayzata Monday, Sept. 18, and visit Osseo Tuesday, Sept. 19.
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