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EMS 8th grade volleyball team involved in local projects

(from left) Lindsey Claflin, Kimberly Larson, Morgan Celt, Jordan Murphy and Tiffany Richie tie a blanket destined for Turning Point. Photos by Sean Scallon

Community service projects and team bonding events are the norm on the professional and collegiate level and its made its way down top the high school level as well.

Kristin Hanson figured it can go down lower than that.

The head coach of the Ellsworth Middle School 8th grade volleyball team wanted her team involved in such activities as well.

"I believe a team has to work together off the court to work together on the court," Hanson, who just finished her first season as head coach, said. "I wanted the girls to feel they were a part of something special. Work together on these projects no doubt made better volleyball team but it also going to make this a better community as well."

So when the season started in September she put the young Panthers to work on a fundraiser to sell chocolate-covered pretzels to raise money. They made $100 and donated half to the American Cancer Society and half to purchase fleeces that the girls made into blankets they donated to Turningpoint, a shelter in River Falls serving victims of domestic and sexual violence.

The team also made quilts out of old jean material they intend to present to the annual Veterans Day program at Ellsworth Middle School.

"It's really been fun," team member Aubrey Langer said. "We have fun working together and we feel like more of a team."

Hanson said she picked up the idea from her brother-in-law Josh Gould, the head coach of the Amery High School football team.

"He wanted his team involved in community projects around Amery and I thought it would be a good idea for my team as well," Hanson said. "I wanted them to think of themselves as not just team members on the volleyball court but within our community as well and I'm very pleased with the way the girls reacted to our projects. They were very excited and some stayed after school and put a lot of time into them."

Team member Kenzie Diercks said the hard work and time involved was worth it.

"We did a lot together as a team and it was fun," Diercks. "We sold pretzels, made blankets and quilts. We went to the varsity games as a team and we went out to eat as a team too."

The Panthers record on the court may have been 3-4-2 but off it Hanson and team members feel like they were undefeated.

"Come together and do something better is our motto," Hanson said.

Hanson was assisted by assistant coach Tiff Calmes. Team members were Langer, Diercks, Breanna Horstmann, Chloe Spriggle, Dani Bennett, Dani Girdeen, Dayna Lansing, Emily Wilbur, Hope Kauffmann, Jordan Murphy, Karissa Seibel, Katie Byers, Katie Deiss, Kim Larson, Lauren Kiefer, Leah Chollett, Lindsey Claflin, Maddie Gardas, Michaela DeGross, Molly Schneider-Adams, Morgan Celt,Morgan Christopherson, Nicole Halverson, Nicole Olson, Sammie Armstrong, Stacie Peterson and Tiffany Richie.