FC, O-F look to repeat volleyball success from last season

Having one state tournament participant from your area is special. Having two in the same division, just 14 miles apart from each other and are rivals who compete in the same league, well, it's out-of-sight!

And both squads not only hope and look to get back to state but have the personnel to do so.

Both Fall Creek and Osseo-Fairchild have just two losses between them so far in non-conference action as the regular season began a week ago. FC finished second in the prestigeous Great River Sprawl Tournament in Onalaska, their only loss coming to Division 1 Middleton and they won the Marathon Invitational as well last weekend. The Crickets are 16-1 overall as they host their own quadrangular Thursday, Sept. 2, their first home meet of the season coming off a second straight trip to state a year ago.

"Our team is thrilled to be back in the gym," FC head coach Matt Prissel said. "We had a somewhat normal summer in terms of league and tournament play which is different from 2020 summer when we didn't get to touch a volleyball until after school started in September. The girls are hopeful the season will be "business as usual", but will be ready to adjust to protocols put in place and schedule changes as they arise. We are all excited to participate in the multi-team events in the forms of quads and tournaments. Looking at our scheduled matches, before we play our first conference match, we will have participated in three tournaments and two quads if we are fortunate enough to stay healthy. Those early season opportunities are really helpful in developing cohesiveness and chemistry on the court."

Leading the Crickets is all-conference and all-state player senior middle Gianna Vollrath. Like the team she's gotten off to a great start to 2021, being given the Most Hustle Award at the Marathon Invitational and setting the school record for most kills at the Eleva-Strum quadrangular back on Tuesday, Aug. 31 which they won with a 3-0 record.

Also returning for FC are: Sam Olson, Hannah Herrem, Anika Steinke, Catrina Cline, and Tori Marten while the players that graduated last year: Emma Ryan, Emily Madden, Mackensy Kolpien, Arin Lipke, Jaedyn Mansur, Hannah Ming and Katie Johnston.

"Our expectations for the season are to keep competing and to keep working to get better each day," Prissel said. "With meshing our returning varsity players with our varsity newcomers, we know we have to be a little patient for everything to click. We will be trying to take each practice and match that comes “1 day at a time” knowing that things can change quickly in the world in which we live. We are just going to go out and play some inspired volleyball and try to go 1-0 in each match. We will focus on 'controlling the controllables'. We will work to compete in the always tough Western Cloverbelt and hope to be playing our best volleyball once the tournament trail begins."

Osseo-Fairchild had a magical 2020 season in spite of the COVID-19 and compiling a 2-5 Western Cloverbelt Conference record, going further than any Thunder squad had gone before them all the way to state. Three players return from that team in all-conference selection Brooke McCune, Mariah Steinke and Madisyn Loonstra but the Thunder have to replace their big middle Madison Hugdahl. So far the Thunder are 7-1, their only loss to East Cloverbelt rival Marshfield Columbus. They won the Black River Falls Invitational last weekend and are at Blair-Taylor Thursday, Sept. 2.

"We worked hard over the summer at league and open gyms getting familiar with each other on the court, starting the season just feels right and I hope we can make it all the way through without any Covid-19 hiccups," O-F head coach Sharon Steinke said. "My expectations for this season are to improve on our conference record and play solid volleyball. We have a lot of talent returning on our team and have some new athletes that can also be role players on our team. With the right mindset and teamwork we should be able to accomplish our goals."

Eleva-Strum began its season this week at its own quad meet and went 1-2. The Cardinals return one of the top players in the area in senior Grace Clark, an All-Dairyland selection, along with fellow seniors Madison Schultz, Paige Hanner and Avery Larrabee from a squad which finished .500 in the league last season.

"Grace is a great leader and team player," E-S head coach Katie Skoug said. "We have a very versatile team this season with many players who can fill in at several different positions. Even though they haven't played together all that long, I'm pleased with the way they've worked in unison as a team so far and I expect it to get better as the season progresses. I think what our players are really looking forward to is having the full crowds in the gym they didn't have a year ago and that's going to make it a lot of fun."

Eleva-Strum hosts Osseo-Fairchild in a non-conference match on Sept. 9 at 7 p.m.

Augusta is still searching for its first win but not for lack of trying. They've lost several close games and matches and will have to work hard to overcome a lack of team depth and size. The Beavers return players such as Kennedy Korger, Samantha Winsce and Kirsten Willems but graduated several players in Phoenyx Knuth, Azia Larson, Bri Krueger, and Kennedy Schroeder.

"Their skill set is good and their cohesion is good as well," new head coach Alicia Bethke said. "I think it's just the mental part of the game, fighting through the moments of fatigue and a momentum swings that they have to master for the team to have success this season."

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