The Mora Mustangs volleyball team finished last fall with a 7-20 record, sixth place in the Granite Ridge Conference (GRC) and eighth in Section 7 AA Subsection 1, and were eliminated from postseason play with a loss to eventual Section champion North Branch.
Here’s what head coach Lisa Gustafson had to say about the 2019 season:
What’s different for this season’s team, compared to last season?
A: We have much experience coming back to the varsity level in all positions. Our middle blocker/ hitter, senior Hailyn Bos, should be a key front-row player as she was a top GRC blocker last year. Our setters, sophomores Mikala Peterson and Lauren Berry, are doing a great job of running the court in a 6-2 system. Top hitters include seniors Abby Szoka and Hannah Bos, and sophomores Sage Lukenbill, Ellian Schritz and Erin Radeke. We’re more consistent defensively with returning seniors Grace Anderson and Alyssa Pasillas in the backcourt, and sophomores Lanah Ingebrand and Jaiden Robb seeing varsity court time. This group is working hard to gain confidence and court chemistry, and improve last year’s record.
What challenges do you expect the team to face this year?
A: The team is going to face tough competition that will really measure both our defensive ability and our attack strength. When we’re on, we’re tough; but we have to learn to play for each point and regain composure on the court. St. Cloud Cathedral and Albany are always strong GRC competition.
How does the coaching staff prepare for a new season?
A: We prepare by going year round. Our program has grown considerably; winter and spring practices and tournaments start in January and end in May, and then summer camps and summer league begin. We also invest a lot of time in our elementary school program, which had more than 110 participants last spring. The girls have to play, play, play to keep up with other schools and clubs.
What makes a player a good team captain?
A: The team has no captains this year.
How do you think participation in athletics affects students beyond the swim meets?
A: Team sports give young student athletes a purpose and sense of belonging. The goals are the enjoyment and love of the game, learning sportsmanship, striving to improve and to win, learning to work together toward a goal, developing friendships, accepting roles and limitations, building confidence and humility - the list goes on and on.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention about the upcoming season?
A: We started the season with a tournament at Howard Lake-Waverly on Friday, Aug. 23. We also look forward to our home tournament on Saturday, Sept. 28. GRC rivals include Foley and Milaca; these are always big games.