LaMoure/Litchville-Marion head volleyball coach, Jill Dunn, wants people to know, the wolf is hungry

"They have all really stepped up this year and push each other and themselves to get better every day," Dunn said. "Most importantly they are having fun out there together on the court. The culture of Loboe volleyball is very much alive."

The LLM squad is currently 19-4-3, overall and 9-1 in Region 3. The Loboes went undefeated in the team's regular-season District 5 matches. Dunn's squad has a No. 1 seeding going into the district tournament starting next week.

Dunn said the Loboes' chemistry and friendships off the court are really fun to be around, which then reflects in how they play. The head coach said it is really fun to be around and see the sparks the Loboes all create on the floor.

"Besides wins and losses this team has really come together this year," Dunn said. "They have a 'never back down' attitude. Even when it gets tough, they battle back and work together as a team. They've set big goals and work 110% every day to achieve those goals."

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Dunn said one of the great strengths of the 2021 Loboe volleyball squad, is that the squad is very versatile. The Loboes have solid weapons from all areas of the court and are able to score with any player on the court and do it successfully. Many players on the team's roster can play multiple positions and do it well.

While the team is dynamic and balanced up front, Dunn said the Loboes still had plenty of work to do on the court. The head coach said the Loboes have been working on understanding what the best options are for plays when the sequential 'pass, set, hit,' series does happen.

Not surprisingly, Dunn picked out Linton/HMB as the region's most dangerous competition. LaMoure/LM fell 3-0 to the Lions in their very first match of the season on Aug. 31.

"They are a very experienced, solid team," Dunn said of the Linton/HMB. "They don't make many mistakes and do a good job of forcing the teams they play to make errors, and their defense is top-notch.

"Region 3 is proving to hold up its standard that it is still one of the toughest regions in the state. It can be anyone's game. At least 4 of the Region 3 teams have been ranked in the top 10 for the state at different times this season."

Dunn said the Lions and Oakes will probably be the Loboes' toughest competition moving forward. The Tornadoes are District 5's No. 2 team at 10-6-2 overall and 3-2 in Region 3.

Dunn said senior Molly Musland and junior Heidi Steffes are continuing to be the squad's top hitters on the floor and have continued to be great team leaders. The head coach said two other players who have really taken ownership of their roles this year are Cassie Quinlan and Nateal Rodin. Both Quinlan and Rodin are juniors. Dunn said both have made their presence known and have become great assets to our team.

"Cassie is our libero and has greatly contributed to the success of our back row, and Nateal has really become a force at the net - I wouldn't want to be in the way of that swing," Dunn said. "The wolf is out and he is hungry. We've got a great team of athletes ready to make some noise come tournament time."

Tornadoes working with young talent

After you lose the Senior Athlete of the Year in Class B volleyball to graduation, it leaves you with some missing pieces of the puzzle.

Katelyn Hagen has been doing her best at putting those pieces back together.

"We lost some key players to graduation last year, one of them being a really big part of our offense in Sadie Hansen," Hagen, the head coach for the Oakes High School volleyball team, said. "When you lose a five-year starter and leader, you have to figure out who is going to fill that role."

Hansen was the 2020 Class B Senior Athlete of the Year and is currently starting for the Valley City State University women's volleyball team.

Building a team with underclassmen has not been easy but the Tornadoes have made some impressive strides both in the chemistry and skills aspects.

Hagen said the Tornadoes have been focusing diligently on their defense and adjusting from our block. Oakes has a large number of younger blockers on their roster so the team has been working on having them read the hitters. I've seen a lot of improvement on that.

"We are also focusing in on our aggressiveness," Hagen said. "We are staying an aggressive team but with that, there's always a chance of more errors so we've tried to limit those errors while staying aggressive."

Brynn Dethlefsen passes the ball during a match. Photo courtesy / Cherie Muggli
Brynn Dethlefsen passes the ball during a match. Photo courtesy / Cherie Muggli

Hagen commended second-year libero, Brynn Dethlefsen, for her natural ability and natural talent in the back row, while also crediting freshman Ann Muggli for her contributions in the middle. Hagen said while the freshman is still growing into her lengthy form, her power and explosiveness at the net has made it difficult for opposing defenses.

Muggli isn't the only one with stats in the middle.

"(Lilly Thorpe) just owns the middle," Hagen said. "It's fun to watch her. She has a contagious energy and passion for the game that really is unmatched. She has a great mentality and I am excited to have her around for a few more years and grow her and build off of that."

Thorpe is a sophomore for the Tornadoes.

Hagen and the Tornadoes will need all their threats up front and a rock-solid defense heading into the district tourney.

"We have the defending state champs in our region," Hagen said. "It's definitely easy to say that Linton/HMB is a huge, huge force and when you face them you are going to have to find a way for that ball to hit the floor because they are not a team that will give you a whole lot of options."

Along with the Lions, the Tornadoes also saw some powerful play from the 2020 District 5 champs, Carrington on Oct. 7. LaMoure/Litchville-Marion has also posed a threat as the Loboes have a slew of offensive threats on their roster, including, Molly Musland, Nateal Rodin and Heidi Steffes.

"It's really going to come down to who is coming to play come tournament time and who plays until that last point," Hagen said. "Our district and our region are both just kind of dangerous. We're looking forward to playing some good competition. It's really going to be a fun district and region tournament."

South Border putting together solid run

Hours spent in a hot gym in the middle of the summer have helped the South Border volleyball team this fall.

"I am happy with how we are playing this year," South Border head coach Kara Scherbenske said. "This group of girls is playing with the strongest team chemistry that I've ever seen since I have been coaching. We graduated five starters last spring so we knew that our younger girls would really need to put in a lot of time in the offseason.

"We spent a lot of time this summer going to team camps and going to open gyms and lifting weights together. They spent a lot of time together practicing their skills and I really think that helped our team chemistry. We communicate well, we are playing well together."

Earlier this year, South Border was in a three-way tie with Strasburg/Zeeland and Napoleon/Gackle-Streeter for the No. 2 spot in District 6 NGS has since secured the No. 2 spot with a record of 5-3 while the Clippers are ranked third at 3-2.

Scherbenske's Mustangs are the fourth team, with an even record at 3-3. In Region 3, the Mustangs are 5-5 and are 12-8-2 overall.

While the Mustangs don't have a winning Region 3 record, Scherbenske said she is happy with her team's stats, particularly at the net. This season, the Mustangs have spent more time looking at hitting efficiency instead of focusing on the total number of kills.

Junior Emily Jochim has taken Scherbenske's teachings to heart this year as she is currently the No. 2 attacker in District 6.

"I am really proud of Emily," Scherbenske said. "She is not a very tall player so she knew that she would have to increase her vertical, she knew she had to increase her strength so she has really worked hard physically to become an effective hitter."

Jochim has recorded more than 250 kills but it's not just the physical game the junior has improved upon.

South Border's Emily Jochim hits a ball against a block. Photo courtesy / Tony Bender
South Border's Emily Jochim hits a ball against a block. Photo courtesy / Tony Bender

"With her mind, she's also gotten smarter about the game," Scherbenske said. "She knows that she can't just go up there and slam the ball every single time. She knows that she has to put it in the open spots on the court. So whether she has to roll it over or she has to tip it -- she's really been able to slow the game down to make those good decisions."

The head coach also commended the Mustangs' lone senior, Savanna Bader, who is currently hitting at a .300 and is making smart decisions with the ball.

Scherbenske said that while the Mustangs' have gotten better throughout the year, Region 3 has improved right along with it. Scherbenske said teams have gotten even better at the net, with blocking and reading hitters.

Regarding District 6 teams, Scherbenske said Strasburg has improved its defense both in the back row and up at the net. She also mentioned that quick and scrappy athletes have helped to better Napoleon/GS's defenses.

Scherbenske mentioned that Napoleon's Ashley Schmidt, the current kill leader in the district with over 350 kills, is playing the best volleyball Scherbenske has seen her play since she began watching her as an eighth-grader.

"I love playing here," Scherbenske said. "The types of games you play against LaMoure/LM, Oakes and Linton/HMB are the ones where you learn the most about your own team. These girls (in Region 3) work so hard to become better and better at their game. I think it is so much fun."