New coach leads EHS spikers this fall
At 3-5 after its first competition, Ellsworth High School's volleyball team won't match the red hot beginning to its season a year ago.
Last fall the Panther were a near perfect 14-1 but finished 2-5 in its final seven matches and below .500 in the Middle Border Conference, They also lost in the first round of the playoffs to a Durand squad they had beaten twice in the regular season.
New head coach Tanya Powers hopes the ending to the Panthers' 2011 season will be much stronger than the beginning and feels playing in the SPRAWL Invitational against some of the state's top volleyball programs will help.
"You know, I wondered what kind of team we would be given the varsity only had a few practices and a scrimmage as one unit before our first meet," Powers said. "I was pleasantly surprised at the potential we showed and I am excited at what we can accomplish."
Ellsworth lost several returning letter winners from last season's team, including much of their offense with All-MBC first teamer Kayla Christopherson and honorable mention Claire Tingelhoff. They also saw Becca Chollett. Allison Freier and Kirsten Kopp graduate.
But EHS returns setter and All-MBC second teamer in junior Jessy Tingelhoff. Paired with sophomore Olivia Helmer, Powers thinks they can run an effective 5-2 offense.
"Working together and good passing will be essential to our fortunes as a team," Powers said. "When we passed well at Menomonie we played well. Having an experienced setter like Jessy and a talented player like Olivia is a nice base to start with."
Senior letter winner Abbey Ristow showed she could pick up the slack on offense left by Christopherson and Claire Tingelhoff as she made the all-tournament team. She'll be paired up front with junior Emily Wilbur.
Other returning letter winners include seniors Kristina Saunders, Mariah Diercks, Taylor Nelson and juniors Kenzie Diercks and Morgan Christopherson. Christopherson and sophomore Chelsey Strom were outside hitters for the Purple at SPRAWL and Nelson along with Kenzie Diercks and sophomore Tacia Kuhl played important roles that weekend as reserves.
Powers liked the way the team hustled and jumped at the net but wants the offense to be more aggressive.
"Our passing was good for the most part but we have to be more aggressive on offense," Powers said. "We need to finish our points, especially at the net and not back down to bigger opponents. That will come with more confidence which will be maintained so long as we keep setting and passing well."
Although EHS came away with just a 3-5 record from SPRAWL, Powers said the two-day tourney was important to creating the team concept which she said is an essential part of volleyball.
"We stayed overnight in Menomonie and had to play together in tough conditions," Powers said. "It was hot, there was barely any ventilation in the Fieldhouse and with so many teams and people in there it's almost claustrophobic. We had to rely on each other to succeed and to finish in the top division of the tournament showed we did so. It has us eager to play the rest of the season."
Ellsworth hosts Elmwood tonight at 7 p.m. and takes has a triangular meet with Hudson and St. Croix Cenrtral Thursday at home starting at 5:30 p.m.