The Bethlehem Academy volleyball team received some extra instruction from one of its own.
For the first time, the Cardinals attended the College of St. Benedict team camp in St. Joseph. CSB head coach and 1998 BA graduate, Nicole Hess, and her staff led the two-day sleepaway camp.
BA was one of 14 teams to attend and got to scrimmage against Section 1A contender, Mabel-Canton, among other teams.
New BA coach Chris Bothun said Rochester Mayo, St. Francis, St. Michael-Albertville and Gopher Conference rival Waterville-Elysian-Morristown were among the teams present.
“It was fun to reconnect with (Hess),” “They ran them through different drills then there was a big camp tournament. We got to see the hard work paying off while also seeing what we’ve got to work on.”
CSB is a good program to learn from. It went 26-8 in 2018 and won two matches in the Division III NCAA Tournament. BA graduate Lauren Matthews was a senior last season and piled up 282 kills.
Bothun assessed her team will have plenty of attack options this fall. All but one of the Cards’ hitters from 2018 are back for 2019.
She also knows where the team needs to focus as matches begin in a few weeks.
“We’re working on serving aggressively,” Bothun said. “We are tweaking our defense, so that’s an area we’re working on improving this year.”
Bothun was hired this spring and entered her first summer with the team. Also new are assistant varsity coach Jill Strodtman and JV coach Ellen Hansen. A C-squad and middle school coach have yet to be named.
She said players have proved willing to try new things and to adapt to the new coaching staff.
Team members have made it a point to fill up the optional open gym sessions Sundays and Wednesdays that were held in June and July.
“I think we’re working really hard to get them to buy in, work hard, have fun,” Bothun said. “I think getting them in the gym how much we have been has really helped with that. And the team camp was huge for team bonding. It wasn’t all in the gym, there was also time to do team bonding activities. I think that helped us.”
Before fall practice begins Aug. 12, BA will compete in the Breakdown Sports USA 10th Annual Minnesota Elite Preseason Tournament Aug. 3 at Midwest Volleyball Warehouse in Burnsville.
The top eight teams in Breakdown’s preseason poll for Class A, AA and AAA were all invited as well as eight at-large teams to come up with the 32-team tournament.