Work hard and never underestimate a team is LaMoure/Litchville-Marion head volleyball coach Jill Dunn's approach to the 2020 season.

"As long as we continue to work together and improve each match, whether we win or lose, we'll be OK at the end of the season," Dunn said. "I expect us to be in the top four at regions again."

At 3-1 the Loboes sit in the No. 4 spot when looking at Region 3's District 5 standings. Oakes (11-0, 5-0) leads the field while Carrington (6-2, 2-0) remains in the No. 2 spot after postponing the season briefly due to developments related to the coronavirus pandemic.

LLM was 4-5 overall at the end of September but the Loboes recently rebounded with a four-game win streak to improve to 8-5.

"Our team has done very well at serving aggressively and having an active net play," Dunn said. "We get a lot of touches on blocks to help slow down the ball so our defenders have an easier task to make a play. First ball contact is key to setting ourselves up for success."

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Dunn said she expects her team to always work hard and have that go-getter mentality whether up by 10 points or down by 10 points. While the attack starts with the Loboes' defense, anchored by junior libero Risa Rasmusson, the head coach also spoke of the talent in front of the 10-foot line.

"Molly Musland is just a true competitor and athlete, always going 110% and won't quit until the final whistle blows," Dunn said. "She's really improved on her attacking, hitting the ball hard and not being afraid to mix up the shots.

"Ashlyn Rode is a great senior leader on and off the court, ready to take charge and not afraid to swing away at the ball. (She's) a powerhouse who's also not afraid to mix up the shots."

Musland racked up eight kills off 22 attack attempts in the Loboes' 3-1 win over South Border Thursday. Rode did not take the court against the Mustangs

It's not just the upperclassmen who are delivering for the Loboes.

Dunn said Freshman Heidi Steffes, a second-year varsity team member for the Loboes has become a player LLM has relied on when in need of a block or kill in the middle. Dunn said the freshman's level of experience and composure reflects that of an upperclassman. Steffes recorded seven solo blocks at the net and racked up a team-high of 12 kills against the Mustangs.

"We have lots of versatile players that are able to adjust to different positions and still do them well, which is a great strength for us," Dunn said.

The Loboes will need all its hitters heading into the next month of the season. LLM faced and lost to Oakes in a 3-0 set sweep on Sept. 10 and is scheduled to face Carrington on Monday. The team lost to District 6 leader, Linton/HMB (12-0, 4-0), to open the season.

"It's a toss-up between Oakes and Linton," Dunn said of the team's stiffest competition. "Oakes has a lot of versatile weapons. They have talented players that have stepped it up this year. Linton continues to have a defense that makes it hard to put the ball down.

"Both are well-oiled machines and no matter who they lose from the previous year, they always find a way to reload and go."

Dunn said the team will need to continue to prepare for the Tornadoes and any surprises that may be posed at the historically competitive Region 3 tournament scheduled to be held at Carrington High School Nov. 9-12.

"I'm just really proud of how they have handled all the changes and adjustments we've had to make in this odd year of 2020," Dunn said. "They're just happy with each day they get to keep playing."