Volleyball: Upsala season preview

Putting together a lineup entirely of underclassmen can offer some big challenges, yet it does offer one big bonus: everyone will be back the following year.

Upsala senior Kristin Wuebkers, left, and sophomore Katlin Welinski leap up to turn back a shot during Tuesday’s Prairie Conference Jamboree in Long Prairie. Wuebkers, Welinski and the rest of the Cardinals’ starting lineup from a year ago all return this fall.

Upsala senior Kristin Wuebkers, left, and sophomore Katlin Welinski leap up to turn back a shot during Tuesday’s Prairie Conference Jamboree in Long Prairie. Wuebkers, Welinski and the rest of the Cardinals’ starting lineup from a year ago all return this fall.

That will be the case for Upsala this fall, as a talented group now has a full year of starting experience, and perhaps as importantly, time spent alongside one another, as it eyes a run at the conference finals.

“I would hope to see more confident players hitting the floor this year now that they all have varsity experience,” Upsala head coach Leah Merten said. “I expect us to be a contender to win our half of the conference this year. All the teams in the Prairie Conference are tough and my team knows that we have to play tough volleyball every time we hit the floor.”

One of the leaders on the floor will be senior outside hitter Danica Cheney, an all-area selection a year ago.

“Danica is a hard worker and I expect her to have another great season for us hitting outside,” Merten said. “She will be a consistent player for us and leader on the court.

“I think our team as a whole is going to leap forward this year and play really tough. I think our middles, (junior) Kiley Smieja and (sophomore) Katlin Welinski, are going to help us out quite a bit offensively this year and they will be fun to watch.”

Also returning to the starting lineup will be seniors Brooke Westrich, Kristin Wuebkers, Mariah Prokott and Sara Herzog, with senior Jessie Evoniuk and sophomore Maggie Jensen expected to see playing time as well.

Upsala is scheduled to open the season at Onamia, Tuesday, with its home opener against Eden Valley-Watkins, Sept. 2.

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