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Side Out Preview: Mpls Southwest vs. New Life Academy

By Tim Kolehmainen, Breakdown Sports USA, 08/19/14, 5:30PM CDT


1 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 23 at Hopkins' Lindbergh Center Main court


A study in contrasts will get underway on the Lindbergh Center's Main court at 1 p.m. when a familiar New Life Academy squad faces off against a new Minneapolis Southwest team. It's veteran small school program vs. newly-minted big school program in what should be a fun matchup.

New Life Academy has started a very young team that past few years, but that young talent has been maturing and resulted in a 20-win season last fall.

"With only a junior libero and no seniors last year, we started all freshmen and sophomores," said coach Wally Bomgren. "This is a great bunch of kids who love the game. They should only improve as they get older." 

The Eagles feature a trio of superstar juniors in setter Kara Stenerson, middle Abby Thor and outside hitter Abby Gorter. All three have started since their eighth-grade seasons and are ready to lead the program deep into the playoffs — perhaps even to its first-ever state tournament. But the Eagles aren't just the "Big Three." Don't forget about libero Maddie Stocker, an honorable mention All-Conference choice last year, or outside hitters Sydney Mortensen and Hannah Nelson.

Minneapolis Southwest is in transition this fall, as former coach Jackie Richter stepped down to take over at Lakeville North. The Lakers welcome in new coach Joanna Lyons, who does inherit several key veterans who helped the Lakers to another 20+ victories last season.

Senior outside hitter Mady Pashibin has a formidable swing that resulted in nearly 250 kills as a junior, while sophomore middle April Houston is already beginning her fourth year on the varsity team. The pair will be counted on to bring a strong presence at the net for the Lakers. In the back row, Jackie Vo and senior libero Jesse Noltimier will be key to the serve-receive game.


Why New Life Academy will win:

  • The Eagles' "Big Three" plays like, well...the "Big Three." Their presence gives New Life Academy a veteran shoulder to lean on at all times.
  • New Life Academy gets big contributions from the rest of its roster, including a strong serve-receive game from Stocker.

Why Minneapolis Southwest will win:

  • Pashibin and Houston outplay their rivals at the net, blocking and attacking and generally dominating up front. They're capable of doing just that.
  • The Lakers adjust to the new coaching style of Lyons right away.

Our pick: New Life Academy in five.

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