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Raiders endure and get stronger

Elmwood's Becky Hartung wants to make more spikes like this in 2011. Herald file photo

ELMWOOD - The volleyball program at Elmwood High School has a lost quite a bit when it came to matches over the past few seasons. The Raiders haven't won as many as four Dunn-St. Croix Conference matches since 2007 and haven't won at least five since 2002.

The past couple of seasons have been particularly tough as low numbers kept EHS from subbing much into games. Whatever effort the players put in, and it was considerable, often times fell short to sheer fatigue.

But there's one thing the program never lost during this time.

"We never lost our competitive spirit. We never lost our belief in ourselves," long-time head coach Bev Glaus said. "The girls came to play and did their best. But we were just too young and thin to gives ourselves a realistic chance to win. But if we had lost those intangibles, it would be a lot harder to rebuild even with more experience and more players."

But as Glaus said, such things never were "lost" and as a result, with more players out for the sport and more experience, the Raiders have their best opportunity in a decade to finish in the upper half of the Dunn-St. Croix.

So far the results have quite promising. EHS is 4-3 overall after the first two weeks of the season and it includes wins over big schools like Spooner, Clear Lake and dramatic come-from-behind victory at Ellsworth. If the Raiders beat Eau Claire Immanuel Lutheran at home Thursday, they'll match their win total from last season before league play begins.

Elmwood has seven returning letter winners with only one senior having graduated: All D-SC setter Amanda Brunner. Back are a pair of All D-SC honorable mention choices in seniors Tina McKune and Becky Hartung. Also back are team leaders like junior McKayla Brunner in blocks, junior Ali Pax in digs and serve-receive, McKune in kills, Hartung in serving percentage along with senior Jessica Bechel and juniors Janessa VandenBerge and Jessica Olson.

Olson will be team's new setter and Raiders will have a formidable front row blockers and wing attackers in Hartung, Pax, McKune, Brunner and VandenBerge while Bechel will play in the back row.

Elmwood will also add in depth to its front row with sophomores Alysha Hoyt and Tessa Olson.

Glaus said more depth will allow Elmwood's players to specialize in what they do best.

"We can sub in more often and when we do, a player can sit on the bench, rest, watch the game and see how it is developing and receive instruction," Glaus said. "In the past they never had that opportunity to reset themselves because they had to worry about playing the back row, the front or the wings. Now we can be more competitive from just that standpoint alone."

Glaus feels Elk Mound will be the favorites in the D-SC this season but not by much, which also gives the Raiders a chance to move up.

"We'll be a better team," Glaus said. "Where that puts us I can't say because none of us really know how the league will shake out. But I do know we have the opportunity to be in that mix that we haven't had in a long time."