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Focus on communication and commitment

As a new high school volleyball season approaches, Kenmare head coach Tim Wallstrum is optimistic that he will have a competitive team in the region.

8/23/16 (Tue)

2016 Kenmare High School volleyball team . . . Front row, l-r: Ashley Bauer, Jacie Ankenbauer, Lizzy Rodin, Arabella Roering, Jordan Rodin, Kylee St. Croix, Annika Christensen; Middle: Taylor Schoemer, Jeneca Kostad, Grace Burud, Emma Condit, Marissa Jensen;  Back: Faith Wood, Shelby Brekhus,  Kirsten Medlang, Sierra Overton, Haley Kohler, Kathryn Handeland, McKayla Neubauer, Kylee Nelson. 

By Marvin Baker

As a new high school volleyball season approaches, Kenmare head coach Tim Wallstrum is optimistic that he will have a competitive team in the region.

However, that hinges on two things, communication and commitment.

“We know we can have a good year and we have a lot of good, physical potential,” Wallstrum said. “We have to mesh, mentally, then we’ve got it.”

In front of plays, in front of teamwork, in front of winning, Wallstrum said the team is focusing on two “C’s” this early season, which are communication and commitment.

He called them the two focus words for the season.

He wants the 2016 Honkers to first, talk to each other because in volleyball, when an error occurs, a point is lost. Good communication can all but eliminate that, and in a close match, that could mean the difference between a win or a loss.

Wallstrum also said the girls have to be committed to volleyball in order to be successful. He said some of the older kids have multiple things going on in their school lives, but while they’re playing volleyball, he wants commitment so the players are more focused on their game without other distractions.

Still, the raw talent is there on the 2016 version of the Honkers and Wallstrum is looking forward to getting on to the court to find out.

“We have a lot of kids coming back,” he said. “We have four seniors back, so we are more experienced than in most years.”

As an example, seniors McKayla Neubauer, Kylee Nelson and Haley Kohler, have a wealth of experience playing together and should figure prominently on how the team does throughout the year.

Senior Kathryn Handeland, a transfer student last year, has a season under her belt with the Honkers and Wallstrum is looking at her to make some big plays.

Three players were lost to graduation.

Another bright spot, according to Wallstrum, is that seven of the 21 girls on the team are freshmen.

They don’t have a lot of experience, and lack of height could be a factor, but to have that many young players is certainly feeding the varsity for coming years.

In one week of practice, Wallstrum has established the starting team and expects them to make some noise on the court.

Shelby Brekhus, a junior, will be the starting setter in a 5-1 offense. Neubauer and junior Sierra Overton will be the outside hitters, Handeland and sophomore Marissa Jensen will be the middle hitters, Kohler will be the right side of opposite and Nelson will play the libera position.

That means Nelson can enter the game at anytime in the back row and stays in the back row without having to rotate.

Wallstrum believes that will be a big plus because Nelson is an experienced player and can read the floor well.

Kohler is an excellent blocker and the key for the opposition is to get the ball around her, according to Wallstrum. He said her key is to cut down on errors such as hitting the net, which is a loss of a point. If she can do that, she’s going to be dangerous.

Wallstrum also talked about Kirsten Medlang, saying she is playing very well early in the season and will be the first player coming off the bench.

He also talked about underclassman Taylor Schoemer who has a unique jumping ability, but she will have to overcome a height disadvantage to get into the starting rotation.

A big test for these girls is going to come this weekend when the Honkers participate in the Coal Country Tournament held in Beulah and Hazen.

Kenmare is placed in Pool B along with Center-Stanton, Lewis & Clark and Dickinson Trinity. The Honkers play the Dickinson Trinity Titans first.

“The beginning of the season is going to be a tough few matches,” Wallstrum said. “We’re at Des Lacs/Burlington next Tuesday and Sept. 1st we host Our Redeemer’s who were 1-2 in Region 6 last year so we’ll have our work cut out for us.”

Some of the stronger teams in the tournament include Ray, Shiloh Christian, Hazen, Stanley and Flasher.

Wallstrum admitted it’s tough to get the girls psyched for a match against a team like Our Redeemer’s that’s been in the state tournament the last three consecutive years.

“I tell them stories about history,” Wallstrum said. “It’s not about winning the match, it’s about winning turns and points.”

He said one of those lessons was about Kenmare vs. Hazen in 2009. He said the Bison beat them easily early in the season, they split during the DLB tournament and the Honkers beat Hazen in the state tournament.

Wallstrum said Langdon is going to be one of the top teams in the east as they already have a strong nucleus and have two transfer students with lots of volleyball experience.

In the west, you have to look at Our Redeemer’s in District 12, but in District 16, Ray will be tough, Watford City is so big, Stanley always has good athletes and Powers Lake will be a tougher team than last year despite some injuries.

“The regional is in Watford City this year and that’s a problem,” Wallstrum said. “It’s a 2 1/2-hour drive on school nights and that gives them a huge advantage.”

Once again this year, the team will have a “pink night” sometime in October to help support breast cancer research.

Wallstrum said the team solicits donations through passing the hat and playing games of chance  on the floor during an intermission. He said in the past five years, the team has raised $5,000 with $1,500 being the highest in one year. Two years ago the team received a banner for its efforts toward research.

In addition, Wallstrum said he is proud of his team for once again receiving the scholar award, which means a team has to have a collective grade-point-average of 3.2 or better. And in reality, that’s a higher priority than winning volleyball matches.

“I’ve been coaching 30 years and we’ve won it all but two years,” he said. “I’m proud of the girls. It’s something we push.” ... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!