Last season, the St. Edmond volleyball team continued to show growth in all phases of the game.
This year, the Gaels are determined to become even more of a force at the net.
Three letterwinners return to the lineup for SEHS, which is coming off a 13-17 overall finish and 3-6 mark in the North Central Conference.
"I have high expectations and feel like we're going to be pretty tough this year," Gael head coach John Johnson said. "We have a group of kids that plays very well together. Offensively, I feel like this team has a chance to be one of the best I've ever had (at St. Edmond)."
Junior Alli Huss and seniors Claire Crimmins and Libby Augustine were each key contributors for the Gaels last fall and will be leaned on heavily once again.
Huss delivered 97 kills, 63 digs and 43 blocks in 2011, while Crimmins notched 123 digs, 28 aces and was 185-for-209 serving. Augustine added 72 kills, 50 blocks and 33 digs.
2012 ST. EDMOND VOLLEYBALL
Seniors - Molly Doster, Hannah Lentsch, Claire Crimmins, Skylar Berdaus, Annie Kersten, Libby Augustine, Taylor Nixon.
Juniors - Alli Huss, Lauren Moeding, Paige Savery.
Sophomores - Jill Salinas, Jaci Stumpf, Anna Yung, Clare Flattery.
(Start times are 7:30 p.m. unless noted)
Aug. 28 - at Storm Lake Invite, 5 p.m.
Sept 6 - at Webster City; 8 - at South Central Calhoun Invite, 8 a.m.; 11 - at Algona; 13 - Eagle Grove; 16 - at CYO in LeMars, 1 p.m.; 20 - at Humboldt; 25 - Clear Lake; 27 - at Iowa Falls-Alden.
Oct. 2 - at Hampton-Dumont; 4 - Bishop Garrigan; 11 - Clarion-Goldfield; 16 - Districts.
"We have good hitters, two solid middles and a strong right side," Johnson said. "I feel like we have a lot more depth this year than we've had in the past. Our defense should also be much-improved over last year. We just need to make sure we stay aggressive and go for the ball at all times."
Others looking to see their roles expand this season are senior Hannah Lentsch, juniors Paige Savery and Lauren Moeding and senior Molly Doster. Lentsch should provide a major boost to the lineup after being sidelined all of last season by a stress fracture.
"We've been practicing really well and just have more quality on both sides of the ball," said Johnson. "I have four sophomores (Jill Salinas, Jaci Stumpf, Anna Yung and Clare Flattery) that can play either front or back. It's always a little scary playing varsity for the first time, but all four of them were able to get into a game already (Saturday at the Gael Invitational)."
Johnson must find a way to replace a group of six seniors, including all-NCC nominees Lexi Peed (415 assists, 102 digs, 46 blocks) and Lydia Harvey (164 kills, 68 aces, 58 blocks).
According to Johnson, the NCC race appears to be wide open. Webster City captured the league crown last season with an 8-1 record and returns three all-conference selections.
"I feel like we can be right there near the top of the conference," Johnson said. "On the other hand, I think every other team also has a shot. We know it's going to be a battle every single night."
Serving as Johnson's assistants are Kenzie Ollinger and Dee Huss.
The Gaels will compete in the Storm Lake Triangular on Tuesday. St. Edmond opens NCC action Sept. 6 at Webster City.