Area All-Star volleyball selections are 'honored, grateful and excited'
Three members of surrounding area volleyball teams were named to the NDHSCA/Optimists' All-Star Volleyball rosters last week.
LINTON, N.D. — Gracie Schumacher began setting goals for her volleyball career pretty early in life.
"I have been playing volleyball since I was able to walk," Schumacher, a senior at Linton/HMB, said. "My aunt, Jaime, was a head volleyball coach so since I was young I have been to countless state tournaments, always hoping I would make it there one day."
Schumacher wound up doing more than making it to the state volleyball tournament, in fact, in the last three years, she helped Linton/HMB win it all — twice.
Schumacher wrapped up her prep career with the Lions as a three-time Region 3 Champion, a two-time Class B Volleyball State Champ, a one-time State runner-up and finally — as of last week — an NDHSCA/Optimists' All-Star Volleyball Series team member.
"I was sitting in the kitchen and my mom told me that I was asked to play in the 2023 Volleyball Optimist All-Star game," Schumacher said. "I've thought about this game and how fun it would be to be able to play with some of the best girls in the state. It feels really good to be able to actually get asked and be a part of the All-Star game."
The 2023 NDHSCA/Optimists’ All-Star Volleyball rosters have been finalized and teams have been selected. Twenty-four of North Dakota’s best high school senior volleyball players were selected by coaches and placed on either the Red or the Blue Team creating two very competitive teams to face off in June.
"What's fun about these games is the competition and energy in the gym," Schumacher, a Valley City State University volleyball commit, said. "It's the best players in the state playing against each other and everyone gets really excited for each other. I am really excited to get the chance to play with all of the girls and to get to know everyone. I feel very honored to be able to play in this game."
What used to be an East vs West series has been changed to a Red vs Blue series. Players are chosen by North Dakota Class A and Class B coaches of the East and the West. Once the roster is complete, players are then placed on either the Red or Blue team through a draft process. The change to the selection process happened just within the last couple of years, but it seems to be getting a rather favorable response from the girls.
"I'm glad that both Class A and Class B are intermixed," Schumacher said. "I think they want both classes, A and B, to get the chance to play with different levels of competition instead of A against B. I am really excited to play with both Class A and Class B because I have wanted to play with some of the Class A girls and now I finally get to experience playing with a couple of them."
The pair of all-star volleyball matches will take place at Fargo North High School on June 12 and Bismarck Legacy on June 13. Matches will start with introductions at 6:45 p.m. with the matches following at 7 p.m.
Schumacher was selected to the 2023 Blue Team and will be paired up with the likes of Caton Pearcy of Dickinson, Claire Bauman of Century, West Fargo Sheyenne's Kailee Waasdorp, and Central Cass's Tori Richter.
The Blue squad will be coached by Sheyenne's Leah Newton and Angie Johnson of Northern Cass. The Red team will be under the direction of Century's Jamie Zastoupil and Tim Wallstrum of Kenmare.
Coaches are first selected by their finish in the state volleyball tournament with those finishing highest from the East and West, Class A and Class B receiving an invitation to coach the All-Stars. Those four coaches are selected randomly to coach either the Red or Blue teams.
While Newton and Johnson might have a slight advantage with having a setter like Schumacher on their squad, Zastoupil and Wallstrum will have no trouble competing with the squad they were dealt.
Jamestown's Bernadette Newman was named to the Red team roster.
Newman, a second-year varsity team member, was an all-around threat for the Blue Jays. Her 214 kills accumulated across 17 conference matches ranked her fifth in the WDA for the most kills acquired overall.
"The thing that makes these games fun is playing with new people and from having them as your opponents to them becoming your teammates," Newman said. "Another fun thing when you play in these games is that it will be very competitive since these are the best volleyball players in the state, so it will be good volleyball. I think it will be fun getting to know more people that have the same passion as I do."
All told, the Jays' leading attacker hammered home 291 kills and recorded 37 aces. The senior earned 2022 first-team, all-state honors for her production this season.
Newman was also credited with 19 blocks and 267 digs in 23 matches. Newman, like Schumacher, made the decision to keep competing at the collegiate level. The Blue Jay standout will be competing at the University of Jamestown this fall.
"It is such an honor to be named one of many great players in the state of North Dakota," Newman said. "I am ready to have fun but also be competitive at the same time during this all-star game."
Newman is the fourth Blue Jay to be named to the All-Star roster. The senior watched as Hunter Petersen and Katie Trumbauer competed last summer and also made the trip in 2021 to cheer on Grace Hegerle who was the lone representative for the Jays that year.
While Newman has been a faithful all-star series attendee the last three years, playing in the all-star game will be Carrington's Haley Wolsky's first-ever experience with the event.
"I found out that I was named to the roster during my art class by my teacher who is also my volleyball coach," Wolsky said. "She pulled me aside and told me that I was being named to the team and I was shocked. Honestly, I knew about the All-Star game, but I did not think I would be on the team mainly because Carrington hadn’t been to State in quite some time, so I was beyond excited when I found out I was on the team."
During Wolsky's four years at Carrington, no one other player had been asked to represent the Cardinals in the all-star game.
"I am so honored and grateful for the chance to play on the All-Star team," Wolsky said. " It is such an honor to play alongside such talented girls and to be coached by some of the best coaches in the state.
"I am looking forward to these games because I love each and every opportunity I get to play volleyball, and I know it will be a lot of fun," the Concordia College volleyball and track commit added. "I think it is neat that my opponents are going to turn into my teammates, I can’t wait to get to know the girls and play with them."
Wolsky helped to lead the Cardinals back to the Region 3 championship game again this season but for the second time in three years, Linton/HMB got the better of Wolsky's crew. Since dropping to the Lions in the regional finals, Wolsky has continued to play volleyball with the Jamestown Jimmie JO team — meaning she won't be an easy one to stop come June.
Wolsky was the Cardinals' leading attacker this last season with 298 kills. She also accumulated 34 aces, made 23 blocks and popped up a whopping 428 digs in the last three months of her prep volleyball career.
Wolsky will be lining up beside Newman, and the likes of Bismarck High's Payton Foster, Reagan Bogenreif and Khloe Brown of Sheyenne, Thompson's Summer Hegg and Jordan West and Breanna Vosberg of Center/Stanton.
"This game is exciting for me because first I just love playing volleyball, and I can’t wait to get back on the court," Wolsky said. "Also, I’m excited because I know this is a great opportunity to improve my volleyball skills and techniques by playing with top-level girls. I am truly honored and grateful and excited to play in the Optimist All-Star Game."