It may be cliche, but it truly was a dark and stormy night for the communities of Wadena and Deer Creek. On June 17, a series of three tornadoes tore through the small northwestern towns, flattening homes, businesses and nearly destroying the high school.
While the community is still sifting through the wreckage and trying to reclaim some sense of normalcy, the world goes on around it. The Minnesota high school volleyball season begins on Monday and with it, perhaps the first step in that direction.
Breakdown editor Tim Kolehmainen sat down recently with Wadena-Deer Creek volleyball coach Sue Volkmann to discuss the upcoming season for her No. 1 ranked squad.
Q. You must have pretty high expectations for this year based on what you have coming back and the success you had in the past?
A. We had a really good year last year and went down to the state tournament and won the consolation after losing to (eventual champion) Marshall. We actually played Marshall pretty well, too. We have 14 of the 15 kids coming back and our lone senior was splitting time with a kid we have playing middle this year. So we have pretty much everybody back.
Q. What is that like having Courtney Volkmann back, your setter, your daughter and someone who is that experienced on the volleyball court?
A. She's been our setter since she was in eighth grade. We have a lot of volleyball conversations at home. She's just so intelligent as a volleyball player. She really loves the game.
Q. You have a very good mix of seniors, juniors and underclassmen that should bode well for the next few years, even after losing Courtney and her classmates?
A. We have a couple of juniors and then four or five sophomores and another three very good freshmen. We do have a good mix coming and some good kids coming in behind there even.
Q. Do the kids look at last year's state tournament experience and want to set the bar even higher?
A. I think they realize that the opportunity is there for them to have a good showing. The last two years that we've been down there, we haven't gotten into the top four seeds. We've always drawn the No. 1 seed and lost. First off, we're hoping to get down there and get a seed so we don't draw the No. 1 seed right off the bat.
Q. The season got off to an inauspicious start with the tornadoes that ripped through town in mid-June. How tough is it to have that happen and now get into the season?
A. I think it put a lot of things in perspective. We were at a tournament in Bemidji when the tornadoes went through town. It took our farm and a few other kids' homes and grandparents homes. It affected every single one of those kids in some way. I think it drew our town together and they helped each other out. Volleyball is important, but they found out pretty quickly that there are many other things that are even more important.
Q. You mentioned that with the high school destroyed, the kids will be taking classes at different locations around town and play their home games in the elementary school gym. How will the kids react to the adjustment period?
A. It's one thing when it happens to a town, but I don't think people really realize what happens when you lose a school like that. It's kind of the centerpoint of their lives and the town's life. It's jsut a building, but it means a lot to a lot of people. They're going to be in a really awkward situation going to classes.
Q. With the success that is expected of your team this year, will that be a kind of a oasis of relief for the community?
A. That's what they say, they can't wait until the volleyball season starts. It brings the community in for something fun ad takes them away from what's happening outside in the town. It will definitely bring out town and school together.
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|14.||Blue Earth Area|