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Elmwood spikers looking forward to 2014 season

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ELMWOOD - For a squad which finished 5-21 last season (1-8 in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference) and returns no all-conference players, it may seem suprising to see the Elmwood High School volleyball team excited and enthused for another fall of bumps, sets and spikes.

But it's not just happy talk that has the Raiders confident 2014 will be better all the way around for them. The return of seven letter winners along with a sense EHS is coming into this season well prepared has the anticipation running all the way to long-time head coach Bev Glaus as well.

"The girls played in a league and UW-River Falls head coach Patti Ford helped us put on a camp here," Glaus said. "It was a really good summer for us and it has everyone in good spirts and ready to play. We have a good number of players on the team and there's going to be competition for starting spots which can only make us better for the effort that has to go in to being a starter."

The anticipation for the beginning of the 2014 season ends Thursday as Elmwood hosts its annual season-opening quadrangular meet. The Raiders will take on Pepin, Gilmanton and Clear Lake starting at 4:30 p.m. in the Red Zone gymnasium. One thing Glaus can't wait to see is how EHS stacks up against Division 4 competition.

"I feel we can match-up with schools our size," Glaus said. "Division 3 schools like Elk Mound, Mondovi and Colfax have very strong programs and that's why they're usually at the top of the league standings and will be again this year. But matches vs. Pepin, Glenwood City, Plum City, Spring Valley in our conference and those against a Gilmanton and Clear Lake in our quad meet and Alma during the regular season will tell us a lot about how far we've come since last season and where we're at right now."

Elmwood would have actually had eight returning letter winners had it not been for the fact  junior Elizabeth Fredrickson injured her knee during the 2013 offseason and did not play at all last fall. Considered one of the school's top female athletes, her absence plus the fact Elmwood was pretty much starting over with an inexperienced line-up meant just getting five wins, and one lone D-SC win at that, was the best of a bad scenario. Only two seniors graduated from last year's team, Alysha Hoyt and Danielle Martineau.

"Liz is a strong hitter and blocker and we missed that last season," Glaus said. "She played during the summer and she's playing strong since practice starterd."

Fredrickson will be joined in the line-up by senior Brandy Peterson at setter, senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Lee with both Justine and Jennifer Weix, also seniors, up front. Junior Shelby Hall returns as the libero. Other returning letter winners include seniors Amber Schoeder and Kaitlyn Sabelko.

Jennifer Weix is the team's returning kill leader with 31 and she also had 16 aces. Peterson finished with 83 assists while Hall finished with 62 digs.

"We have more size to help with blocking," Glaus said. "And I also think we'll also maneuver better on offense in terms of watching what defenses are doing and attacking them. Those will be key factors in any success we have."

Another key factor is the team's disposition.

"They're  a great group to coach," Glaus said. "They're very cohesive and more encouraging towards each other but also more competitive. They've survived a lot losses and yet they're setting high team goals. They have a willingness to do what it takes to win and if they continue to work hard as they have been, I'm confident they can do so."