With the Door County teams previewed above, and hopefully previews of Kewaunee, Algoma, and Oconto coming soon in their respective local newspapers, I figured I will try to put together as unbiased as possible preview of N.E.W. Lutheran?s volleyball team for the upcoming season.
History: N.E.W. Lutheran has won five of the past eight Packerland Conference Championships, has had two trips to state in 2006 and 2007, yet last year was the first year since 2007 that they won a regional championship. This came at the end of quite possibly the weakest regular season the Blazers have had under head coach Paul Steinhaus, as they won just nine regular season matches and finished 5th in conference.
Players Lost to Graduation: One, middle Rebecca Schoenwalder was the only player on an extremely young team last year to receive All-Conference recognition, garnering 2nd Team honors.
Preseason outlook: Much brighter than last season, if for no other reason that all but Shoenwalder returns. On top of that, many players did extra volleyball activities over the course of the offseason, whether it be club, individual volleyball lessons, or summer camps. While this team is not going to blow anybody away with its height (tallest players maybe 5?8?) or athleticism, the overall knowledge of the sport and technique as well as being very comfortable playing with each other will keep them competitive and hopefully winning a lot more games and matches.
Potential Starters/Lineups: With only losing one starter from last year?s team, you would think many of the starters would stay in place, and that still may be the case. However, there should be more of a push from a group of talented sophomores for playing time as Coach Steinhaus says, ?There should be a lot more competition for playing time this year. Last year it was almost like a starter had to be on their death bed not to be in the lineup.? The couple positions that should be all but locks are at the libero position, where senior Morgen Kleiman returns, and at the outside positions, which should be held down by two of the team?s best hitters and passers, junior Ivy VanBeaver and sophomore Keifer Zimmerman. Vertically challenged senior Bekah McClellan will most likely set half of a rotation from the back row, with sophomore Abby Benz possibly moving from middle to setter to set the other half of the rotation, utilizing her intelligence and quickness. After setting last season, athletic junior Sadie Nier will most likely move to the middle, to provide a little more net play for the Blazers. Senior Elisebeth Hovland played front row right side last season, and is probably a frontrunner to retain that spot. Talented sophomores Maddy Sabel, Maddie Knetzger, and Amanda Baneck will all challange for playing time as the season goes on.
Schedule Outlook: As with previous years, the Blazers pride themselves on playing one of the toughest D4 schedules in the state, and this year will be no different. The Blazers will play 48 matches before regional play begins, and of those 48 matches, as few as three will be against other D4 schools. As for regional play, the Blazers have been moved to the southeast sectional, where they are in the same half bracket as potentially quality teams such as Hilbert, Sheboygan Area Lutheran, Lake Country Lutheran, and Living Word Lutheran. After finishing fifth in conference last season, I don?t see any reason why the Blazers can?t at least crack the top half of the conference, potentially being in the top two or three.
Following Wisconsin sports from the Keweenaw.
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