Volleyball preview: Raiders bring balanced attack in 2010
For Hastings coach Rita Girgen, that word will have all kinds of meaning, and all kinds of importance, for her 2010 Hastings girls volleyball team.
"We definitely lost some key players from last year, but we have had players totally step up so far," Girgen said. "Those players who have moved on to college have set the standard. They've encouraged the kids who are coming back, and they're running with it.
"We are very deep this year. This year, we don't just have one go-to player. We're going to have four go-to players. Everything is so much more diverse this year."
According to Girgen, Hastings has the talent to be able to compete at a high level again this season, but talent is only part of the game.
"Physically, we should be equal to a lot of the teams we're going to come up against," she said. "Our mental game is going to have to be a major focus for us. We'll have to let go of the mistakes. Learn from them, and then let them go."
Captains for the Raiders are Amy Becker and Liz Keena. Both players are seniors.
Becker is a right-side hitter and setter. She returns for her third year on varsity.
"She's filling some really big shoes this year," Girgen said. "She's doing a really good job and accepting that role. We're just really excited about what Amy is going to do. She's a very good leader, too."
Keena returns for her third year of varsity action. She is a middle hitter for the Raiders.
"We think she'll be one of the top players in our conference, and potentially in the state," Girgen said. "She's just a great leader. On and off the court, she challenges herself and she brings out the best in her teammates."
Allison Wenker is a senior who will play opposite Becker.
"She's very versatile," Girgen said. "She was normally a setter. We will have her hit and focus on blocking this year, too."
Megan Oakes is a senior utility player.
"She's versatile, too," Girgen said. "We will focus more on the left side with her and, more specifically, in the back row. She has a good back row attack."
Alli Steiner is a defensive specialist.
"She's used to playing libero and middle back, but we're looking to move her around, too," Girgen said. "She's done a really good job of adjusting. She has a strong serve and her attitude is awesome. She's the kind of girl you want on your team."
Key returning players
Devon Santelman, a junior, has been on varsity since she was an eighth-grader and is poised for a very strong season as the team's libero.
"She's bringing back some strong leadership," Girgen said. "She's a very disciplined player."
Biancca DuFour is a sophomore middle hitter who will play opposite Keena.
"She's returning as one of the top underclassmen in the state," Girgen said. "She's been ranked that. We're excited for her. She's gained a lot of confidence and she has had a lot of exposure since last year's season. We're looking for really good things from her."
Sarah Jones is an outside hitter who saw a lot of quality playing time for last year's team.
"She's coming off a knee injury, but she's bouncing back," Girgen said. "She's going to do really well once we get her back to full strength."
Last year's Hastings team made a big step forward for the program, earning a 14-11 record. This year, Girgen expects more of the same.
"We definitely want to be at the top of our conference," she said. "An achievable goal is to be in the top three of our conference. We are definitely looking to make a run at sections. We should be very competitive with the teams in our section. Our goal is to be consistent and disciplined. That will get us there."
Stillwater, Forest Lake, Cretin-Derham Hall, Woodbury and East Ridge should be among the top teams in the Suburban East Conference this fall.