The Brandon-Evansville volleyball team is coming off one of its better seasons in recent history, and there is some reason for optimism heading into this fall with so many players back.
The Chargers were 20-7 last year and won two matches in the Section 6A Tournament. Included in that was a dramatic rally against Henning in the second round that saw B-E trailing by two sets before winning in five.
The Chargers graduated just three letter winners from that group, but two of them were All-Little Eight Conference players in setter Madison Quinn and libero Sara Jacobson. It’s soon time to see how well Brandon-Evansville can replace them with a strong nucleus surrounding the newcomers at those two important spots.
“The girls have high expectations for the season, and they’re showing up,” B-E head coach Kelly Olson said on Aug. 19. “I know it’s only the second week of the season, but they’re doing what they’re supposed to do. We’re getting through stuff, and it’s not dragging. There seems to be a little more focus than some other years.”
Olson wants to see how things look once the matches start to get a feel for exactly what this group is capable of. Quinn finished her career at B-E with 1,294 assists. Someone needs to step into that role at setter, and junior Korrie Randt is going to get every opportunity to do that.
“She seems to be a little more consistent in her sets, and she’s a little older than my ninth and eighth-graders,” Olson said. “She’s a team captain and a pretty ‘Steady Eddie.’ That’s the direction we’re going is Korrie will take that role, and she’s doing a good job for us.”
Randt already has the respect of her teammates. She was active from the bench last season with her enthusiasm in leading what became known as the “cheer squad” for the Chargers. That got her voted a team captain with senior Kailee Klimek and junior Bailey Schaefer. Now Randt has to make the transition from leading on the bench to leading on the court.
“That’s what I’m working through with her right now is how to run the team and how to start thinking ahead,” Olson said. “Now she has to be the one to plan things out. It’s going to be a process for her to not be nervous on the court when things get tight and not playing in the moment. I always say I need my setters to play two plays ahead. Right now, she’s a little ahead of the play, but she’s not quite running the match yet.”
Senior Kristen Kokett is set to take over Jacobson’s role as libero.
“Both of her sisters have been liberos,” Olson said. “We’ve done some stuff with her as far as taking ownership from the backcourt. Again, that’s going to take some time for her to get comfortable, but right now she’s looking like our best option and she does a pretty good job.”
Both Randt and Kokett come into the season knowing they have some experienced teammates to lean on for help. The Chargers are well positioned to have talented attackers at the net.
“I think all of our swings are better than they were last year,” Olson said of that group as a whole. “Brittany (Korkowski) has gotten better and she’s pretty smart. Kailee has really worked this summer on being more efficient with her swing. Haddey (Zastrow) is hitting the ball really well. Bailey has done some work. I think she’s going to be smarter at the net than she was last year. Mikenna (Pattrin) is looking better too. She’s keeping the ball in front of her. Her timing is really good with Korrie. It’s looking really nice as far as the swings go.”
Schaefer is back as a junior after being a first-team All-LEC player and B-E’s co-MVP in 2018 as a sophomore. Her 354 kills last season easily led the team. In order to really take her game to a dominant level, Olson wants to see Schaefer improve on some of the little things that can make a big difference over the course of a match.
“She’s going to have to control her body language. Not having to put the ball to the floor on a swing every time. It’s being smart with the ball and using the block,” Olson said. “She can jump, and she does hit the ball hard. She just needs to be more efficient.”
If that happens, Schaefer has the potential to grow her game even further as a junior and senior after already being a top outside hitter in the LEC.
“I think last year, if the ball was in the right place Bailey would kill the ball,” Olson said. “If it was off a little bit, she would kill it or put it in the net. She’s done a good job. We talked about it right away in the beginning where she’s going to have to be better with the third contact when it’s not the perfect ball. That’s where you’re going to see players start to dominate when the ball isn’t perfect, they still make the right play.”
The Chargers have two home matches to start their season on Aug. 27 and Sept. 3 against Hancock and Battle Lake, respectively. They play at home against Henning on Sept. 10 at 7:15 p.m., and that is a match that could let B-E know where it stands in the Section 6A field again this year.
“Henning is going to be really tough and (Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley) will be really tough,” Olson said of the section. “I would guess Wadena is going to be in there somewhere, but Henning is probably the toughest team in the section. CGB is probably a close second. Neither of those teams lost much.”
The Chargers did not lose a lot by numbers, either. They are ready to see how some new pieces fit in with a talented group of returners after a 20-win season.