Jimmies take deep lineup to Sunshine State
Wednesday, the University of Jamestown volleyball team was touring the Florida Everglades, getting up close and personal with alligators on a guided tour.
Today in Miami Gardens, the Jimmies will get down to business.
The season starts with four matches the next two days at St. Thomas University, the first of which is against 24th ranked Missouri Baptist College.
“One of the benefits of going on this trip before school started is that we could take a couple of days on the front end to do some other stuff,” UJ coach Jon Hegerle said. “We told the players to have a serious approach and to have as much fun as possible on and off the court.
“When we’ve been on the court practicing here, the girls have been focused and intense. I feel like we’ve gotten a lot accomplished.”
The Jimmies play Missouri Baptist, owner of a 27-7 record last season, and host St. Thomas today. On Friday, they play West Virginia Institute of Technology and Warner University (Fla.). Saturday will include snorkeling and other adventures, but first things first.
The games are important because Hegerle has many players and combinations to get a look at.
“Pound for pound this is the most depth that we’ve had,” he said. “All of these girls have earned the right to play. We want to keep them engaged and improving.”
The Jimmies, who went 26-8 last season and had no equal in the North Star Athletic Association, are nearly three-deep at every position. The roster has a nice mix of returning standouts and talented newcomers. On paper, there are few holes.
“I firmly believe this year we’ll be able to play more players in matches and won’t have a let up in the level of play,” Hegerle said. “Could that change as we get into playing a lot of matches? It could. But right now we have a lot of girls that deserve an opportunity to play.”
Hegerle, who has won 70 percent of his matches in five years as head coach, is very high on back-row players Amanda Kramer, Elise Peterson and Nicole Warren of Oakes.
“We should be quite a bit better in the back row with our ball-handlers, passers and defenders. That’s something we should be able to rely on night in and night out,” Hegerle said.
Offensively, junior setter Kaia Buck and improved sophomore Aubrey Beaumont have all kinds of hitting options.Versatile, all-conference junior Alaina Brown has played all the way around for two years and has only improved, Hegerle said. Kaitlyn Bollingberg of Grand Forks Red River, also returns on the outside.
Newcomers Siri Jystad, a former Blue Jay, and true freshman Courtney Suppa of West Fargo have earned a long look on the outside.
On the right side all-conference performer Janna Johnson and former Division I basketball player Heather Bachman — at 6-foot-3 — provide a lethal 1-2 punch.
Most teams may suffer after losing an All-American like Sarah Becker, but the three-headed tandem of Kaitlin Anderson, another Grand Forks product, Naomi Walther and Carrington freshman Madison Wendel have plenty of potential. Anderson led the NSAA in blocks per game last season (1.14).
While the skill level is high, Hegerle is anxious to see how everything else meshes.
“We have some untested players. They’ve done well in practice, but by the same token sometimes things are a lot easier in practice,” he said. “The big question mark is what’s this team about? How will they handle pressure? How will they handle adversity? Those are the things we’ll start to find and that will be exciting.”
Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org