Osakis players, coaches welcome new challenges in Section 6AA

Before Mitch McGuire takes on the head coaching job at Alexandria Technical and Community College, he hopes to continue building a positive culture in the Osakis volleyball program.

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Madison Lipke reaches for a tip during an Osakis volleyball practice on Aug. 17, 2021. Lipke is one of a handful of returning players from the 2020 team that finished 6-2 in a shortened season. (Jared Rubado / Alexandria Echo Press)

The Osakis volleyball team is coming off one of its better years in recent history. But after the state-wide volleyball shakeup, new challenges are presented to a youthful Silverstreaks team.

With the Minnesota State High School League's addition of a fourth class, Osakis will play in Section 6AA. After going 6-2 in a shortened season, the Silverstreaks are looking to take another step forward against some familiar teams in a new 14-school section.

"In the past, we've played in a lot of tournaments where we competed against those schools," Osakis head coach Mitch McGuire said. "It's not going to be anything too different in the regular season. I'm really happy about that. The skill level we're at, and the drills we do that translate to game play will make us a competitive team again."

Osakis shares sections in other sports with Melrose, Foley, Albany and others in the new 6AA. The Silverstreaks have played in Section 5A in recent years, and senior Alexis Johanson is looking forward to the new challenge.


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Alexis Johanson rises for a slam at an Osakis volleyball practice on Aug. 17, 2021. Johanson heads into her senior season hoping to build off of a 6-2 campaign in 2020. (Jared Rubado / Alexandria Echo Press)

"We know who a lot of those athletes are and what they're capable of," Johanson said. "We've had a good start to practice so far with these girls. The new section is definitely interesting."

Building off last year's 6-2 season will be one of McGuire's toughest challenges in his three years at Osakis.

"We graduated four key seniors last year," McGuire said. "But the way that we run our drills in how we work together all the time, we are building that skill from 7th grade through varsity. We are intermixing those players, so we don't just have a few girls working together, but we have everyone. That really brings cohesiveness through the whole program."

Each group of graduates brings a fresh group of seniors. Johanson is taking the guidance from leaders before her to help pass on the culture of Osakis volleyball to its newcomers.

"I'm ready for this," Johanson said. "When my sister played, and even some of the girls that graduated last year, I was really close with them. I feel like it's my turn to be the leader."

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Mitch McGuire serves a ball in a team drill at an Osakis volleyball practice on Aug. 17, 2021. McGuire is heading into his third and final year as head coach. After the 2021 season he's heading to Alexandria Technical and Community College to coach at the junior college level. (Jared Rubado / Alexandria Echo Press)


Madisen Johanson graduated in 2019 when Alexis was a sophomore. Growing up, the two sisters played a lot of volleyball together, which helped build Alexis' love for the game.

"My sister practiced with me when we were younger all the time," Johanson said. "She's taught me everything I know. My friends last year pushed me to get better too. They taught me how to be a leader, and I'm going to do that with this group."

Following the 2021 season, McGuire plans to coach the volleyball program at Alexandria Community and Technical College. Going into year three, the players have embraced McGuire's attempts to establish the culture he wanted in place.

"We really like Mitch," Johanson said. "He's great for us, and he's been great for our program. It's been crazy what he's had to deal with in two years. He's taught us so many things that we didn't know, and we're sad to see him go after this year. But we were so glad to have him."

McGuire welcomes a new pair of assistant coaches. Stacia Johanson, a former Osakis girls basketball coach, is heading the junior varsity team. Autumn Senger, a Buffalo native, will run the C-squad. His new support system, along with experienced veterans, has helped McGuire feel more prepared heading into year three.

"Having this team atmosphere again makes everything easier," McGuire said. "It's nice that we're able to come back to the gym as a team and give each other high fives and hugs. We missed out on that last year. It's been a great comeback for that. We have a whole new coaching staff, and we're working together really well. The girls are connecting with those coaches right away."

McGuire isn't focused on wins and losses right now. He's hoping to see his girls progress one drill at a time before the season-opener at the Albany Tournament on Aug. 27. The Silverstreaks' home opener is Aug. 31 when Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa comes to town at 7 p.m.

"We're going to stay positive," McGuire said. "We are going to have fun and compete."

Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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