Three 2022 storylines to watch among Class B – Region 4 volleyball teams

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

DEVILS LAKE – As volleyball practice officially begins on Aug. 15, 11 Class B – Region 4 teams will prepare for the looming season that should see a fair share of action on all sides of the court. 

So, what storylines stand out the most as the 2021 season officially takes the back seat and the 2022 campaign takes the wheel? 

Here are three Class B – Region 4 storylines to watch as practice officially gets underway: 

1. Navigating 2022: a Langdon Area/Edmore/Munich story 

The 2021 season might not have brought the luster the Cardinals might have experienced during the 2019 season (L/E/M won the 2019 Class B State Championship, 3-1, over Oakes). Still, 2021 certainly illustrated the team’s resiliency. 

Langdon/Edmore/Munich vs. Dickinson Trinity (Class B Volleyball State Tournament)

Despite failing to reach the Class B State Championship for the third year in a row (L/E/M fell to Linton/HMB, 3-0, in 2020), A 35-5-1 record in 2021 was still a pleasant sight for Cardinal fans. So was sweeping opponents in 26 of their 35 victories, not to mention outscoring them, 2,745-2,057. 

However, what stood out the most in 2021 might have been how the team responded to adversity. After middle hitter Cora Badding went down with an ACL injury in mid-September, the Cardinals adjusted and responded in full. Senior leadership from the outside hitting duo in Marlee Hetletved and Morgan Thielbar, in addition to middle hitter Morgan Freije, helped cushion the blow. The trio combined for 979 kills over the season’s entirety (134, 198 and a team-high 647, respectively). 

As the trio departs, Badding – now a junior – returns to the fold. Despite going down with injury, Badding finished 2021 ranked fourth on the team in kills (126). Setter Jalynn Swanson and defensive specialists Olivia Christianson and Halle Jabs also return. As the Cardinals look to run it back, practice will be essential toward rekindling the firepower from last year’s team. 

2. How does North Star fill the lineup void(s)? 

If a team came close to usurping L/E/M, it was North Star, bar none. An undefeated regular season – including a pivotal 3-1 victory over the Cardinals in their regular season finale on Nov. 1 – certainly proved their worth. However, the Bearcats could not follow up the resume win with a rematch against L/E/M 10 days later as they were swept, 3-0, in the Class B Region Championship on Nov. 11. 

North Star will look to fill the shoes middle hitter Danielle Hagler (listed) leaves behind.

North Star’s prominence on the offensive end came from middle hitter (and 2021 Region 4 Volleyball Senior Athlete of the Year) Danielle Hagler. Hagler’s position up the middle helped the Bearcats sweep 19 of their 21 regular season matches in three sets or less. 

Hagler’s graduation – in addition to setter Lindsey Nyhagen, libero Gracie Miller and defensive specialists Ava Teubner and Isabel Nevland – will be tough to replace. And so, it will be up to 2021 Region 4 Volleyball Coach of the Year Aubree Page to find new scorers, setters and defenders. 

No job might be heftier. How will it turn out? 

3. Surge or slump for first, second-year head coaches? 

New coaches fill the ranks every season, and the Class B – Region 4 positions are no exception. Jo Gilbertson (Nelson County) and Sara Abrahamson (St. John) are two specific cases to prove such a point. However, coaches in their second year of the head-coaching gig – including Benson County’s Bridget Geller – will have the opportunity to show their prowess in a season requiring them to offset graduation losses. 

Head coach Bridget Geller (red) talks with co-coach Sheri Stuberg during practice.

If nothing less, the job will be a transitional one as first and second-year coaches work through the first and second-time bumps and bruises that encapsulate the volleyball season. 

John Crane is a sports/general assignment reporter for the Devils Lake Journal. Feel free to contact John via work phone (701-922-1372), cell phone (701-230-4339), email (jcrane@gannett.com) or Twitter (@johncranesports) with any story ideas.