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Lady Wildcats return four starters this season

HARTINGTON — Leigh Haselhorst’s eighth-team as head varsity volleyball coach for Hartington-Newcastle will feature plenty of challenges.

Yes, she will hope to get her Lady Wildcats even further up the D1 ranks, but she also hopes she and the rest of the state can outlast the COVID-19 pandemic that has left everyone with hope that sports can be played, but also dreading the ‘what if,’ scenario of another pandemic-caused shutdown.

Until then, Haselhorst comes into the campaign off of last year’s 20-12 record that included a District semifinal loss and the graduation of three key players in Abbe Morten, Brianna Hopping and Autumn Lammers.

The season begins Aug. 27 against Crofton at the Howells-Dodge Tourney.

“Our strengths are our ball control and defense,” Haselhorst said. “We hammer defense a lot during practice and the girls know my philosophy is defense wins games. I believe we have outstanding effort and hustle for every play and I attribute that a lot to the girls’ determination.”

The coach will have four returning starters back ,including senior OH Kayden Jueden who had 421 kills, 54 aces, 31 blocks and 314 digs a year ago, OH Erin Folkers who has improved her ball control according to Haselhorst, S Alivia Morten and Keanna Korth.

“Keanna has improved so much from her freshman year,” Haselhorst said. “I look for her to be a big asset for us in the front row this year.”

Then there are Keeley Wiepen, Makenna Clarkson, Kennadi Peitz and Erin Meisenheimer, who all provided key points of strength at all parts of the floor.

Jueden has been a big contributor her entire high school career. She’s now taking on more of a leadership role this year.

“I am really excited to see what this year will bring,” she said. “We have a really young team, but I believe as the season goes on, we can really gain some good experience. Every year is different.”

Jueden focuses on the coach’s need for great defensive effort.

“We have always been based on passing and we always focus our game on that,” Jueden said. “Without that we can’t have a set and we can’t have a hit. So that’s the whole game right there: serve receiving and passing and we have plenty of good passers on our team.

“We have a lot of good athleticism all around so that really helps out.”

The Lewis and Clark Conference race will include tough challenges from Ponca, Wynot and Laurel-Concord-Coleridge, according to Haselhorst.

“LCC always puts together a nice team,” she said. “I always look forward to playing them because it’s a great match from both sides.”

Haselhorst said the school did a good job with the state precautions for the summer during the pandemic’s height, and weightlifting and skill work groups gave her a chance to work with the girls and advance their athleticism.

Jueden is just happy to know she has the opportunity for now to try and play those big rivalry matches and also go hunting for a big postseason run.

“Halfway through the summer it was very daunting because nobody knew what was going to happen this upcoming fall,” Jueden said. “Now that we are going it’s obviously really exciting. Your senior year is a very bittersweet year, but you want to experience it and I am really grateful that COVID is not stopping us from that, yet. I am really excited to experience this with the girls with whom I have been playing with for so long and the new girls.”

LAUREL — Laurel area voters will get an opportunity to vote in November on a proposed $23 million bond for school improvements.

Board members reviewed information for a bond election for the cost of the school facilities renovation project for a total amount to be bonded of $23 million to be bonded over 25 years.

The project would require an 11.1-cent bond levy. Projected true interest cost will be 1.903 percent.

The project may allow the school board to reduce the .074344 now being used for the special building fund.

This decision was made after a five-meeting process, which included discussions to formulate options.

The process shows the scope of what will be needed to replace what school classrooms now are used at the high school level. A new front entrance is also suggested.

A November vote in favor of the project would mean design would begin immediately on the project.

Community informational meetings are planned before the vote including at least three public forums.

School board president Jay Hall said the COVID situation delayed everything.

“This project is a renovation of the high school. This is a pretty major decision,’’ Hall said.

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