The Hiawatha Valley League projects to be strong yet again in 2019.
Kenyon-Wanamingo was ranked No. 1 in Class A in the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association preseason poll. It’s K-W’s first year moving down from AA.
The Knights are one of three HVL teams in the A or AA top 10.
Here’s a look at how teams are shaking out looking forward to the fall season which begins in a matter of weeks.
Teams are listed in order of 2018 HVL finish.
The KoMets ran the table to win the HVL, going a perfect 10-0 and dropping just three sets (including one to K-W) in conference play. They were 32-3 overall and placed third at Class AA state. K-M’s only losses were to each of the eventual three state champions: Class A Minneota (two sets), AA North Branch (five sets) and AAA Champlin Park (two sets).
Of four seniors who graduated, all-state outside hitter Peyton Suess and libero Bailey Berge are the biggest. Suess is playing collegiately at Wake Forest and Berge at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Suess’ sister, junior 6-footer Mya, joins senior Emilee Terry in replenshing the offensive attack. K-M comes in at No. 6 in the rankings. Head coach Adam Van Oort returns and is assisted by wife, Yvonne, a former University of Minnesota player.
Before the state rankings came out, K-W head coach Jen Nerison said the Tigers will be a team to watch out for. It turns out that wasn’t a secret as they earned the No. 1 spot in AA.
The reason for the hype is they finished in second in the HVL at 9-1 (25-5 overall) and return all but one player. Junior middle hitter Erin Lamb was all-state last year and senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Prondzinski was honorable mention. In the middle of 2018, the Tigers swept six straight HVL foes. Stewartville dropped in four sets to K-M in the section playoffs. The state’s winningest coach, John Dzubay, returns. He’s over 900 wins for his career starting briefly at Plainview and at Stewartville where he’s been since 1986.
K-W was unable to defend its co-HVL title from 2017, but the Knights kept up their spot in the upper quarter of the league by going 8-2 to place third. K-W was 24-9 overall and fell to Belle Plaine in the subsection finals. The Knights’ only HVL losses were to K-M and Stewartville.
K-W returns all but three players from last year led by senior outside hitter and college recruit Ally Peterson. Starting setters Madi Luebke and Riley Dummer as well as middle hitter Julianna Boyum are all back. K-W has played a lot of volleyball together this summer and should have as good of chemistry as any in the league. Jen Nerison is back for her eighth season as head coach.
Z-M is another team that beat everyone below it in the standings and lost to everyone above. The Cougars (21-7, 7-3 HVL) were the most veteran team in the league in 2018 with nine seniors on the roster. Two were all-HVL performers, outside hitter Aspen Brubaker and rightside hitter Makayla Arendt.
Stewartville knocked out Z-M in the second round of sections. The Cougars won nine straight matches at one point of the regular season, but will try to keep floating this year with a young core. Lisa Nelson returns as head coach.
The Bears closed out 2018 strong with eight straight wins before running into K-M in the section playoffs. Byron will be led by all-HVL senior libero Courtney Connelly. The Bears replace five seniors including all-HVL middle blocker Lilly DeCook. Byron was 18-12 overall and 5-5 in league. It recorded its fifth season above .500 overall. Owen Hoegh returns as head coach.
The Bombers’ 14-15 overall record and 5-5 mark in the HVL don’t pop off the page. But Cannon Falls played a challenging schedule and took care of most of the teams it was supposed to. It lost to Byron in round one of sections.
The Bombers replace seven seniors including all-HVL outside hitter Molly Bowen and honorable mention all-HVL setter Rachel Huseth. Back is honorable mention senior middle hitter/rightside hitter Shayla Hustad. Melissa Huseth is back as head coach.
The Tigers finished sixth in the HVL with a 4-6 record and were 19-12 overall. Lake City made a run to the section finals before dropping a four-setter with K-M. Its entire roster in 2018 was composed of juniors and seniors. Five graduate, but the Tigers return all-HVL outside hitter junior Delaney Issendorf. Starting setter Hannah Grimm and middle hitter Grace Bany are back to bolster a team that could make a climb in 2019.
The Cobras hung around the .500 mark in HVL and overall play in 2018, taking seventh place at 4-6 in league and 14-15 overall. Triton graduated three hitters and two defensive specialists, including all-HVL outside hitter Nell Graham. The Cobras return their top setters Sydney Gilliland and Chelsea Lasker and top blocker middle hitter Isabel Valdez. Rebecca Goossens returns as head coach.
The Panthers have their work cut out for them replacing 11 seniors from a 13-17 (3-7 HVL) team in 2018. The other four members were juniors, so there will be a lot of new faces in the maroon and gold in the coming years. The departures include their three HVL honorees: all-HVL middle hitter Regan Bushman and honorable mentions libero Jordan Brehmer and setter Sydney Andrist. Jessie Mason enters his third season as head coach.
The Wildcats finished 15-15 overall and were formidable in non-conference. Goodhue just couldn’t figure out the tough HVL, going 1-9 in league play with the only win against winless Rochester Lourdes. Goodhue lost to eventual Class A state runner up, Medford, in the subsection semifinals.
Like most HVL teams last year, Goodhue leaned on its seniors and lose six for 2019. Most notable is middle blocker/middle hitter Kate Opsahl who was all-HVL. Back for a team that has room to climb up the standings are honorable mention all-HVL selections junior libero Torrie Rehder and junior setter Hannah Gadient. Goodhue did not have a player taller than 5-foot-9, so bolstering its front line will be an area to watch. Lindsay Bauer returns as head coach.
It was a tough year for the Eagles who won three sets throughout HVL play en route to 0-10 and 10th place. Lourdes was 6-19 overall. A highlight was all-HVL outside hitter Grace Hobday. She and three other seniors graduate.
Lourdes is accustomed to winning 10-plus games throughout the season and could be improved with most of its production back.