It’s certain that the Berlin High School volleyball team will start its season in Stevens Point.
Where the Indians play their final match, well, they have a pretty good idea of that, too.
“I believe the team consensus is that this is the year that we would really like to see ourselves on the floor at state,” co-head coach Eydie Reiser said. “We are carrying a lot of pressure on us in that respect, but it’s good pressure. This is the best configuration we’ve had for a while and you just don’t see a team like we have in our area very often.”
This year’s squad is almost nearly identical to last year’s team that won the Eastern Valley Conference, earned the school’s first WIAA regional title since the 1990s and took state qualifier Oconto Falls to four sets in the sectional semifinal.
Three players — Callie Walker, Maddie Koster and Jenna Horn — earned first-team all-EVC honors, while Laura Trochinski garnered a second-team mention. All four are back along with a healthy Becca Wenig to give Berlin very veteran crew.
Walker, who is still recovering from an injury suffered at the end of the basketball season and may not be available at the start of the season, was the Northwestern’s All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year following the 2011 season. She will hit from both the middle and outside as well as from the back row at times.
“We don’t have a whole team surrounded by Callie. I’ve seen those teams and had those teams where we only had the one girl, but I don’t feel like that this year at all,” Reiser said. “We have a lot of different variations we can run, a lot of different configurations we can put on the floor, so that is going to be to our advantage.”
Trochinski, one of the team’s captains, will anchor one of the outside hitting positions, while Wenig, who battled a shoulder injury last year, plays in the middle. Koster will return as the team’s setter.
“Maddie Koster brings a lot to the game with her ability to see and read and react quickly,” said Reiser, who will be coaching the team along with Michelle Walker.
Horn can serve many roles for the Indians, according to Reiser, having the ability to unleash spikes as an outside hitter or shine as a passer in the libero jersey.
“We’ve been using her literally everywhere,” Reiser said. “She will be seeing a lot of court because she’s just got such a solid game.”
The one added dimension on this year’s squad for Berlin may be added depth as Reiser said there are plenty of quality players that will be making the jump to varsity this year.
“The rest is kind of toss up to see who will step up and solidify the next couple of spots,” Reiser said. “We do have some underclassmen coming up and we have our eyes on some of our JV squad to fill in, especially so we don’t lose momentum for next year.”
With a talent and experienced lineup returning, Reiser still sees one key area for improvement this season — consistency.
“I would really like to see the girls play at a high level regardless. We do have a tendency to play up or down, depending on the (opponent),” Reiser said. “I want us to play our top game no matter what, so we don’t have any lapses and we can keep building on it.”
Second-team all-FVA performer Allie Rueger returns to lead a veteran group of Wildcats, who hope to get back to the top of the talent-rich FVA.
Rueger, a middle hitter, will be one of the leaders of the offense, which should also get a boost from freshman Anna Kaminski, who will be a key threat outside for West.
Four-year varsity performers Maddy Haedt at setter and Leah Salzer at libero also return as part of a strong senior group for the Wildcats.
“Right now we have a lot of returning players that are really stepping up as well, taking leadership roles,” said Trisha Neveau, who will be serving as the team’s head coach while Gillian Pakula is out on a maternity leave. “I’m looking forward to what they have to bring to the team as well.”
With two veteran hitters back to anchor the offense and an experienced setter, first-year coach Luke Herriges is looking for the Spartans to climb up the standings in the Fox Valley Association.
“I hope so,” said Herriges, a varsity assistant last year who took over for Kevin Santry, who is now coaching at Fond du Lac. “I think we have the potential to be (competitive) in conference.”
Leading the way for the Spartans this season will be senior middle hitter Sydney Radandt and junior outside hitter Mina House, both are entering their third year on the varsity level.
Jordan Foote also returns and will be the team’s main setter.
Herriges is also expecting key contributions from sophomores Morganne Markofski and Caitlyn Schafer this season. Markofski will be an outside hitter and back row player and brings a great serve to the court, while Schafer will see significant playing time in the middle and right side spots.
“We also have a good scrappy defense, which is something we’ve kind of lacked in the past,” Herriges said. “Hopefully we can frustrate other teams by keeping the ball alive and make other teams make mistakes.”
Senior hitters Jess Roberts, a returning first-team all-Trailways North selection, and Laura McDermott will lead a young group of Knights this season.
The Knights will be relying on some young setters — sophomore Kelley Hollmaier and freshman Sam Jaeke — to run the offense, but head coach Jon Ellmann believes the youngsters will be productive.
“We’re spending a lot of time training setters, but they play with more maturity than most freshmen and sophomores,” Ellmann said. “We’ve got senior leadership, we’ve got athleticism and sort of an enthusiastic youth — a little bit of everything. It’s all the ingredients you need to have a successful, fun season.”
The Foxes return five players from last year’s varsity roster and are looking to take a step up in the Flyway Conference, after going 0-8 in league play.
“We are so looking forward to this season,” head coach Wendy Fisher said. “Skill-wise they are ready. If they can get through the mental game, we definitely will be competitive in our conference.”
Emily Kasuboski is the lone returning senior to the squad and will be one of the leading hitters on the squad, along with juniors Cassie Borgardt, Tessa Zimmer and Nicole Peters.
Junior Lauren Fisher returns as a setter for the Foxes.
The Warriors will be a very young and inexperience but talented team.
Valley Christain returns one senior in Melissa Heinen as a hitter. First-year coach Ashley Hawley is looking for sophomores Brie Abel and Anna Hyatt to take a big step forward for the Warriors this season.
“They were swing players last season,” Hawley said. “They’ve played club ball and they are developing. I’m really excted to see what they bring to the team.”
Hawly noted that it will be a learning year and that this squad will be building to be contenders a year or two from now.