Class A Season Preview
New year. Same storyline for Class A volleyball. Will any team be able to prevent Bismarck Century from adding another trophy to their collection? I think the east could be interesting with the usual consistent programs being tested by some up and comers. Sheyenne and South seem to be trending in the right direction and they find themselves ranked highly in my preseason rankings. In the west, I like the traditional powers to be at the top, but I could see teams like Legacy, St. Mary’s and Mandan making serious runs.
Class A Team Rankings
The Patriots are once again the team to beat. I can give you all the stats you could ever ask for to back that up, but I find this one most interesting. There are some young ladies that will be on the floor for the Patriots this year that were still in diapers the last time there was a state championship game played without Century. That was 2004. The Patriots have won six of the last seven state titles including back-to-back crowns.
Century graduated eight seniors but return a pair of all-conference talents in senior hitters Logan Nissley and Claire Bauman. Nissley won the Gatorade player of the year in the state last year after recording over 350 digs and 350 kills. She’s my preseason player of the year, but the bad news is that she’s expected to miss the first half of the season as she recovers from offseason feet surgery. Nissley is one of the top athletes this state has produced. She’s already committed to play college basketball at the University of Nebraska. Bauman is tough to deal with as a middle hitter. She finished fifth in the WDA in blocks last season with 27. She also registered 105 kills. Look for juniors Eden Fridley and Erika Lee to play bigger roles this season.
You don’t have to drive too far from Century’s campus to find their stiffest competition. Their cross-town rivals from Bismarck High will be tough again this season after making a run to the title match last fall. Last year’s Class A runner-up returns all-state setter Peyton Foster and strong front liners Brooke Curtis and Taylor Andersen. BHS proved it can beat Century last season by defeating them twice including once in a regular season tournament.
Foster has been such a key cog in the Demons’ success in recent years. She has dished out over 1,300 assists, more than 500 digs and 95 aces in her varsity career. She’s a volleyball diehard having coached and officiated the sport, as well. Look for Foster to flourish as a leader this season. Helping her pile up the assists will be Curtis and Anderson who have become more confident players with every rep. Look for Curtis to be one of the better blockers in the state, while Anderson brings the energy that teammates will feed off of.
The Mustangs check in at number three for me thanks to the return of all-EDC picks Kailee Waasdorp and Reagan Bogenreif. Leah Newton prides her program on playing tough defensively and I think that’ll serve them well in 2022 with the talent they have returning. They have the tools and now it’s time to build a championship contender with them.
Bogenreif is a talented 6-rotation player for the Mustangs. She finished her season strong by recording double-digit kills in all three matches at state. Look for her to continue right where she left off. Waasdorp is coming off an all-state season as a junior. She’s one of those players that if she gets into a hitting rhythm, you better look out. But it’s not just hitting, she’s another one of those versatile players for Leah Newton’s team. Lexi Terhark has shown tons of hitting power throughout her time at the varsity level, too.
The Blue Jays had a five-year streak of state tournament appearances snapped last year and that hasn’t sat well with head coach Sara Hegerle and her program. I have little doubt that young ladies in Jamestown put in a lot of work over the offseason to make sure they’re back in the mix come November.
The key returners for Jamestown are Bernadette Newman and Haylie Hakanson. Newman dominated in multiple phases of the game last year cranking out 276 kills and 160 digs en route to being named to the all-conference team. Hakanson was also great at the net as both a hitter and blocker (45 blocks last season). Junior Mackenna Nold recorded significant playing time last year as a sophomore and will be relied on heavily this season as the team’s setter.
Rounding out my top five is a surprise team. Fargo South hasn’t qualified for state since 2014, but I believe that streak comes to an end this fall. A lot of coaches I spoke or messaged with in the offseason pointed at the Bruins being capable of contending for the EDC title. South returns one of the state’s top weapons in returning all-state hitter Emma Dalby. It’s not just Dalby either, South has a ton of experience back. If they can build some confidence early in the season… they can compete with anybody.
Dalby is a 6-foot senior middle and she’s racked up over 600 kills in her varsity career. Head coach Peyton Wegleitner describes her as a “threat from pin to pin.” Dalby is one of just two returning players who made the first team all-state team last year. Senior OH Gen Gard is another weapon for the Bruins. Gard has over 500 digs and 500 kills in her varsity career. Senior setter Madison Jackson is coming off a junior year in which she recorded over 1,000 assists. Her experience will be beneficial for a team that has really high hopes this season.
The Eagles finished in 4th place in the EDC regular season standings last year and ended up defeating St. Mary’s for a 7th place finish at state. They were looking really strong midway through the year in 2021, but struggled toward the end losing three of their final five matches to close out the regular season. Look for senior libero Emma Lalic and senior middle Maci Wheeldon to be a couple of the leaders for Carolyn Olson’s squad.
The Sabers are coming off a sixth place finish at state and only graduated three seniors off that team. 6’0” senior middle Chelsa Krom returns and should be a force. She averaged seven kills and nearly two blocks per match last season. Senior setter Madi Colby will be the orchestrator of the offense and is approaching her 1,000th career varsity assist. Look for Legacy to be battling in the top half of the WDA this season.
Class A Preseason Player of the Year
Top 10 Seniors to Watch in Class A
- Claire Bauman, Century
- Reagan Bogenreif, Sheyenne
- Emma Dalby, South
- Payton Foster, Bismarck
- Chelsa Krom, Legacy
- Mykendra Messer, St. Mary’s
- Bernadette Newman, Jamestown
- Caton Pearcy, Dickinson
- Olivia Soine, West Fargo
- Kailee Waasdorp, Sheyenne
Class B Season Preview
Class B volleyball has been dominated by Linton-HMB each of the last few seasons with the Lions winning state titles by sweeping the competition off the floor in the championship games. But two of the key pieces to Linton-HMB’s success graduated last year in JayCee Richter and Teegan Scherr. I think it’ll be hard for the Lions to overcome those losses to make a bid for a 3-peat but I wouldn’t necessarily rule it out either. Success often times breeds more success and Jaime Richter is one of the top coaches out there. I just think some of the other top teams return enough talent to be ranked above them heading into the season.
Class B Team Rankings
1. Northern Cass
Most of the coaches I talked or messaged with over the offseason pointed to Northern Cass being the top team entering 2022. It’s hard to argue. The Jaguars were state runner-up last year and return some powerful hitters like senior Halle Crockett and junior Josie Jensen. This team always plays with passion and that typically leads to positive results. Head coach Angie Johnson says, “We return a lot of starters, so our plan is to continue to build upon our success of last season. Our goal would be to make it back to that state championship game, so that we can prove to ourselves that we can win it.”
Whether it’s the basketball or volleyball court, Northern Cass senior Halle Crockett knows how to take over a game. With Emma Lucas off to Valley City State, more pressure will rest on the shoulders of Crockett who finished with over 300 kills and 400 digs last year. She packs some punch at the net and will have the Jags in the state title hunt. Not many teams have a 6’2” middle to protect the net like the Jags do with junior Josie Jensen. Jensen finished last season with 212 kills and 77 blocks. Noelle Erickson is the senior setter for the squad and is coming off a season in which she recorded 557 assists. Look for Ellie Lucas and Eleise Sand to step into larger roles this season, too.
The Tommies are a traditional power and I have them ranked second in the preseason coming off their semifinal appearance in 2021. They graduated five valuable seniors, but the Tommies always have a ton of talent waiting in the wings. They’ll be trying to make their sixth consecutive trip to state. The Tommies last won the title back in 2018.
Summer Hegg is poised for another dominant year after collecting over 400 kills as a junior. Look for Clara Stevens and Brenna Martin to be key contributors at the net this year with junior setter Sydney Schwabe being the floor general. Senior libero Jordan West will be the leader on defense, doing her best to make sure nothing hits the floor.
Will it be an 8th consecutive trip to state for Langdon-Edmore-Munich? Hard to imagine anything less for this bunch. It’ll be interesting to see how this team comes together. They have significant losses due to graduation, but they're also gaining some key players that didn’t play last year. Head coach Rich Olson says, “We believe we have the potential to become one of the top teams in the state. It will take time as we have several players that will be new to their roles.”
Junior Cora Badding missed all of last season with an ACL injury but had 200 kills as an 8th grader and a 9th grader. Badding is regarded as one of the top all-around athletes in the state. She’s an outstanding track and field athlete, starring in the long and triple jump. Junior Jalynn Swanson might be one of the more underrated players in the state. Swanson was outstanding last year as a sophomore finishing with 1,036 assists, 362 digs and 75 aces. She’s one of the top setters in the state and will likely find herself in the all-state conversation at the end of the year. Jaya Henderson didn’t come out for volleyball last season, but the standout basketball player is back on the roster this year. Her athleticism makes a huge difference as they try to make up for the loss of all-state middle Morgan Freije. Senior Hallie Jabs will be the team’s starting libero coming off a season in which she recorded 301 digs and 55 aces.
4. Central Cass
If you’re wondering which region will be toughest, here’s your answer. Central Cass is our second team from region one in my top five list. The Squirrels have a long list of returning starters including standout libero Tori Richter and big-time blocker Decontee Smith. This senior group has played in a ton of big games in various sports. Head coach Alyssa Kasowski adds, “We lost a few key players but have seven incoming seniors who are willing to not only push themselves to find success, but also push their teammates. They understand that you must do the little things in volleyball to reach the big moments.” They’ll have to go through Northern Cass in order to reach state, but don’t count out the Squirrels.
Richter is one of the top defensive players in the state. She finished last year with 600 digs. Klaire and Delaney Cotton are the top two returning kill leaders for the Squirrels while Decontee Smith led the team in blocks last year with 68. This team has great depth in its lineup which really becomes a factor when the postseason arrives.
The Honkers are the only program returning two all-state players from last season. Kate Zimmer and Brenna Stroklund are as good as it gets at their respective positions. The Honkers took Northern Cass to five sets in the semis last year. After graduating only two seniors, I expect them to be right back in the mix come November. The Honkers were 41-5 overall last year but head coach Tim Wallstrum says there’s still plenty to work on having graduated some key defensive players, “We will need to work on passing the ball and playing team defense to get back to a quality level of play.”
I tabbed Stroklund as my preseason player of the year. She erupted for 484 kills, 286 digs, 57 aces and 92 blocks a year ago. Players like Brenna don’t come around too often. She’s versatile and relentless. Look for her to have another monster year as she tries to get Kenmare its first state volleyball title since 2009. Zimmer finished the year with 873 assists to go with 200 digs and 60 service aces as a junior. She also managed to nab 100 kills on a hitting percentage over .500. She’s coming off an ACL tear that happened early in the basketball season last year but should be ready to go for the start of the season. Seniors Abbey Kohler and Madison Melin are a couple more players that should be strong players at the net for Coach Wallstrum.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lions make me look silly listing them outside the top five. The 2-time defending champs graduated four talented seniors headlined by all-state picks JayCee Richter and Teegan Bosch. Richter was named the senior athlete of the year last season. But as head coach Jaime Richter explains the cupboard isn’t bare, “I have an undefeated JV team from last year and six quality seniors that will have great knowledge and skill. It will take a little time, but once they develop the experience and role I feel the team could be very successful.” Four-year starter ShayLee Bosch will be the leader up front boasting over 600 career kills and 120 blocks. She’ll be one of the top middle hitters in Class B. Gracie Schumacher has over 2,000 career assists and 120 aces. Schumacher was outstanding in the state tournament recording 114 combined assists in the three matches.
The last time the Titans were on the floor, they took Langdon-Edmore-Munich to five sets in a battle for fifth place at state. Junior Ava Jahner impressed enough at state to make the all-tournament team. It was a fitting finish to her outstanding season. She’s become one of the most feared hitters in the state. Junior Olivia Kessel will be another top hitter for the Titans. They’ll have to find a new setter following the graduation of standout Kali Kubas. Breanna Sisson has proven to be one of the top coaches in the state. The Titans have made it to state five consecutive seasons and have a solid crew to make a run at six straight.
The Loboes should challenge Linton-HMB for the region three ticket to state. Head coach Jill Dunn is excited about her key returners and feels she has some “diamonds in the rough” on the roster. Junior middle hitter Heidi Steffes won’t be sneaking up on many teams. She’s led the Loboes in kills and blocks each of the last two seasons. Senior libero Cassie Quinlan is another key piece returning. Quinlan led the team in serve receive and digs last season.
The Patriots will try to challenge Thompson for the region two title this season. Head coach Stacy Hanson believes she has the crew to pull it off. The Patriots return their starting lineup with the exception of setters Kalynn Olson (all-region in 2021) and Kinsey Hanson. The junior class is loaded with talent led by twin sisters Rylee and Raina Satrom who combined for over 400 kills and 70 aces last year. Both were all-region selections in 2021. Fellow junior Danica Hanson is a well-rounded player, too. She had 309 digs, 129 kills and 20 aces as a sophomore. Seniors Kate Bradner, Allis Stromsodt, Brooklyn Groth and Jillian Larson will also be top contributors this fall.
Class B Preseason Player of the Year
Top 10 Seniors to Watch in Class B
- ShayLee Bosch, Linton-HMB
- Eden Carrier, Cavalier
- Taylor Christensen, Glen Ullin-Hebron
- Halle Crockett, Northern Cass
- Summer Hegg, Thompson
- Karli Klein, Garrison
- Ellie Powell, Bowman County
- Tori Richter, Central Cass
- Megan Taszarek, Richland
- Kate Zimmer, Kenmare