HARTINGTON — The 2020 Lady Wildcats was a team that found its groove late in the year and gave the fans of Hartington-Newcastle plenty to cheer about.
The Lady Wildcat volleyball team had a season to remember a year ago when they came one game short of the Class D1 state tournament, losing to eventual state runner-up Archbishop Bergan in the District final at Wisner-Pilger.
Head coach Leigh Haselhorst, who enters her ninth season guiding this ship, saw the Lady Wildcats start slow, but slowly gain momentum as a team consisting of young talent combined with some veterans who figured each other out and enjoyed the homestretch.
That homestretch included a SubDistrict title game win over rival Cedar Catholic.
This year’s squad is expected to be a typical Haselhorst squad.
“This team will excel in the areas of ball control and defense,” Haselhorst said.
The team has quite a few big shoes to fill. “We graduated four big-time players from last year but the girls that will be filling their roles have had lots of experience on the court. We will be moving some players around to give us a bigger look in the front row and also giving us three options for hitters at all times,” she said. “I have some really great leaders that I will be relying on to steer this team in the right direction.”
The team will have senior Erin Folkers (OH), juniors Alivia Morten (S/RS) and Kennadi Peitz (OH/RS) and sophomores Olivia Grutsch (L/S) and Lauren Howell (M) who offer starting experience. Others that should provide key rotational work are seniors Maya Knutson (L/ DS), Erin Meisenheimer (OH/RS) and Anya Pick (RS/M) and sophomores Mani Lange (L) and Zoey Gratzfield (M).
Morten notes the departure of four-year starter, doeverything Kayden Jueden from last year’s squad, but she also sees a very talented core in front of her.
“I think we will do very good, and we have to get that in our heads because we lost Kayden and she was a big help last year,” Morten said. “We have two really good middles who should do well this year.
“Our passing needs to be a little better, but our hitters are going to be really good so I will have a lot of options to go to. Our outsides, they know how to hit and our middles, they can hammer those down and our right sides know when to tip when our sets aren’t too hot sometimes. We have everything.”
Morten also noted that the strong finish last year, including the win against Cedar Catholic, pushed the Lady Wildcats confidence sky high.
“Beating Cedar was one of our top moments,” Morten said.“
Haselhorst is confident with the veterans at her disposal.
“Alivia has been my setter since her freshmen year and is a natural leader: She has a great eye for the game,” Haselhorst said. “Erin will be our go-to gal in the front row. She has a lot of power and I look for her to do big things this year.”
Haselhorst is readying for a slate that includes plenty of tall tasks including matches against Laurel-Concord-Coleridge, Wynot and Ponca.
“They have some amazing coaches that really know their athletes’ strengths and weaknesses,” Haselhorst said. “I always look forward to playing them.
“This team’s desire to win is something that I will never doubt. They always give their full 100 percent of their effort. I am super excited to be able to coach them and see the hard work that they put in during the summer pay off.”
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