Captains dare to dream about state tournament
hen the senior captains of the 2017 squad, middle hitter Clara Olson and setter Olivia Gadberry, were asked about their goal for the season, they both gave the same answer at the same time: “state!”
“Everyone has in mind that this year is our year to be section champions,” Gadberry said. “We have an insane amount of talent on the court, we just need to bring it all together as a team.”
2015 Section 7AAA champion North Branch has dropped down to Class AA, leaving squads like Cambridge-Isanti, Princeton and 2016 champions Grand Rapids as the teams to beat on the road to state. The Rangers last made state in 2002.
“It’ll be a matter of wanting to get the job done and being able to perform the skills that we’ve learned,” Olson said.
Although a large class departed after last season, head coach Sherri Alm will have a squad comprised entirely of juniors and seniors, meaning even the players new to the varsity level will have plenty of volleyball experience.
Junior outside hitters Angela Denney and Abigail Groeneweg will bring power to the frontcourt.
“[Denney and Groeneweg] are well-rounded players that can bring the heat,” Alm said.
Junior libero Ava Schmoll will anchor the back line.
“[Schmoll] is a fantastic passer,” Alm said. “She is a top defender, a tough server with plenty of determination.”
Senior setter Elly Capra and right-side hitter Liz Lee bring additional varsity experience.
Among players new to varsity, junior middle hitter Lindsey Johnson will shore up the front line.
“[Johnson] is such a competitor,” Alm said. “She will be up to speed in no time – she is quick and determined.”
Senior defensive specialists Maria Quigley and Abby Bier “are looking good and ready to go wherever there is a need,” Alm said.
The Rangers played Cambridge-Isanti on Aug. 29 and will host North Branch in their home opener Aug. 31. The Rangers face a long stretch of nonconference games before Park comes to town on Sept. 19 to mark the beginning of the Suburban East Conference season.
“We have lots of potential if we can put it all together,” Alm said.