Albert Lea has been a young team in recent years, but that youth is maturing into a team to be reckoned with this fall. The Tigers are anchored by All-Conference honorable mention sophomores Julia Deyak and Camryn Keyeski along with senior middle Kassi Hardies.
"We have five experienced varsity players returning, so we hope to do well," said Albert Lea coach Lisa Deyak, who beings her third season with the Tigers. "A strength of our team is that they have good chemistry on the court and our returning players have a lot of varsity and club experience. For us to have a successful season we have to figure out our line-up to maximize our playing potential and work to continually improve our defensive game and speed up our offense."
Holy Family Catholic lost several starters from last year's 14-14 team, as seven varsity players graduated. But Fire volleyball has key returning players including senior captain and All Conference setter Katharine Mallak, who led the team with over 750 set assists in 2013. She should hit the 2,000 mark this season as she manages the offense of this team.
"She is one of the top setters in the state and a valuable asset to this program with her dedication to the sport," said coach Mary Stude. "Her leadership and decision making will play a vital role as this younger group of athletes takes the court."
Stude also expects improved play from senior Emma Melander, who will return as an important blocker anchoring the front row. "Third year player, junior Natalie Waltz, has a much improved swing that should place her in a primary offensive role. Junior Claudia LaRose sparks the energy for the team and brings the intangible element of work ethic inspiring others. Her deliberate serving last year helped the Fire win several close games," continued Stude, who does know that defensive play will need to improve, if this group is to challenge the other teams in their conference and section.
Why Albert Lea will win:
Why Holy Family Catholic will win:
Our pick: Holy Family Catholic in five.