Old path, different sport: Otters’ success in other sports to aid in first state appearancePublished 11:10am Wednesday, November 6, 2013
The lights, the atmosphere, the pressure.
The Fergus Falls volleyball team will make its first ever state appearance Thursday taking on the Belle Plaine Tigers, but the lack of experience the program has at state, is more than made up for by its main cast.
Eight of the nine regular players for the Otters have played on the big stage – just not in volleyball. The success of Fergus Falls’ girls athletics have been anchored by a core group of girls that have participated in state basketball, softball and track.
“We’re all very excited,” Otters’ head coach Renee Erickson said about the team’s first state tournament berth. “It’s the big goal as a team we have had the whole season. Although we haven’t been there as a team, most of the girls have performed on this type of stage and hope to carry their experience over into this sport.”
The Tigers enter the tournament with the fourth seed, entering the tournament with a 25-8 record. This is Belle Plaine’s second ever state appearance, as well as its second straight. Last season, the Tigers finished in fourth place in the tournament, losing to Sauk Centre in the third place game.
Belle Plaine brings a strong outside hitting game from senior Marykay Nasby and freshman Mariena Hayden, while also being deep from the bench. Seniors Nasby, setter Devin Lehman and middle hitter Amara Meyer and freshman Hayden all contributed in the team’s three state games last year.
“Even though the range of ages is wide (freshman-seniors), this group of kids has been playing together for two to three years in Juniors,” Tigers coach Cassie Koch said. “There was no need to spend time on team chemistry, they already had it.”
This isn’t the first time the two teams have met. In the 2011 season, the Tigers swept the Otters in the first game of the Southwest Minnesota Challenge tournament. “I could tell then they were building a great program. I know they have great athletes, not just volleyball players, which can truly make a difference in High School volleyball,” Koch said.
The two teams also challenge each other during a preseason breakout tournament. The Otters took on the Tigers twice, recording a split. The tournament did not allow for the coaches to be present and neither team had its full roster represented at the event.
The Otters will once again have to come out focused a full of energy as they play in front of hundreds of screaming volleyball fans at the Xcel Energy Center. Expect the Otters to use a wide variety of attacks against the Tigers, while also playing its typical solid defensive game.
Thief River Falls’ head coach Laurie Bitter and the Prowlers had the opportunity to play both teams this season and gave compliments to how great both defenses played.
“Belle Plaine is a quick team, so their transition is pretty fast, while Fergus played very tough at the net and dug up what we did hit,” Bitter said. “It is going to be just like the Section Championship whoever shows up And plays aggressive will win. Both teams are fun to play and watch.”
The game will begin at 5 p.m. Thursday with the winner moving on to a semifinal match against the winner of the Mora versus Marshall game at 5 p.m. Friday. The loser will play in the consolation bracket Friday.