After finishing at the bottom of the South Central Conference last year, the Blue Earth Area volleyball team has a chance to work their way back up the ranks.
"The returning players after last year are hungry for success. That competitive drive is hopefully going to be what we need this season," coach Donna Nawrocki says.
There were seven who graduated and left the team from last year. But, this season five players return as seniors.
The 2014 Blue Earth Area Buccaneer varsity volleyball team is pictured above, back row, from left to right: Kaylor Jacobs, Alissa Norman, Sam Ripley, coach Donna Nawrocki, Sofia Blair, Lindsey Norman and Lindsey Jacobs and front row, from left to right: Sam Barslou, Kylie Ahl, Analicia Swanson, Devyn Braunshausen, Mariah Twedt and Elizabeth Ellis. To see more photos, go to cu.faribaultcountyregister.com
Those seniors include Mariah Twedt, Devyn Braunshausen, Elizabeth Ellis, Analicia Swanson and Kylie Ahl.
"We will look for leadership from Devyn and Elizabeth," Nawrocki adds. "Those two probably saw the most court time last year."
That means the volleyball team will have more youth on the court this season. The newcomers will continue to compete for spots as the season begins, the coach adds.
But, just because they are young doesn't mean a thing.
"These girls are quite athletic," the Buc coach says.
Their athleticism and youth seem to reflect the players' depth in the game. The girls seem to have shown the coach they can move around to various positions when needed.
Nawrocki says if one girl is having a bad night there will not be an issue going to the bench and finding another player who would be able to step up and fill in.
"We will take some hits because of our youth, but overall we will be a better team,"?she adds.
As they work to compete for position amongst themselves, the girls will also need to learn something else.
"This is the first time most of these girls have actually played together,"?Nawrocki says.
And, that won't be the only first this season. The BEA?volleyball team will be participating in the Big South Conference for the first time this year.
The change from the SCC to the Big South won't take a lot of adjusting for the Bucs, though.
"We will be playing pretty much the same teams we always have,"?Nawrocki says.
The biggest change will be the last game of the season. They used to always play Windom for their last game, but this year that will be replaced with what is called the crossover game.
The Big South will be divided into two divisions for volleyball east and west. Then, for the crossover game, the team will play the same level team in the opposite section.
"Since most of the teams we play are the same, we start our season out with a game in Lake Crystal and our first home game against LeSueur/Henderson," Nawrocki explains.
She feels this is always an opportunity for the team to work though some kinks and get a feel for where they are at skill-wise at the beginning of the year.
"They will be tough games to start out with,"?the coach says. "But, St. James and St. Peter look to be top teams in our section."
However, Nawrocki feels the girls on BEA's varsity team will be competitive and match skill with the other teams.
"Every little thing is going to make the difference this season," she adds.
As stated before, since they finished at the bottom of the conference last year, they can only hope to go up from there.
According to the Buc coach, many of the girls worked hard in the off season and are hoping that will help things along during regular season.
Aside from the varsity team, the other squads are also showing promise already.
"We have 42 girls over all with a total of four squads," she adds. "They are going to be competitive and well balanced."
Nawrocki hopes that is a good sign for the future of the volleyball team, too.
"They have good depth on the other squads as well; we can build on that each year,"?she says.
The other coaches for the BEA volleyball program include assistant coach Sara Albright, JV?coach Abby Bloomquist and C-squad coach Kelly Prunty.
The first varsity match will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 26 at Lake Crystal-Welcome Memorial. The first home game will be against LeSueur/Henderson on Thursday, Aug. 28. Results from both games will be featured in the following issue of the Faribault County Register.