Volleyball girls dedicated to "keep it going"

Hattie Sanness, returning serve, and Addyson McHugh work on the back row during preseason workouts. Photo by S. Lee Epps
S. Lee Epps

Graduation claimed most of the offensive firepower from Spring Grove's record 27-win volleyball season last fall (2018), but there is much optimism that a solid Lion program will continue to extend the current 10-year string of winning or break-even seasons.

The Grove girls have been Southeast Conference East Division runners-up in eight of the last 10 seasons. Last fall, the Lions played in the sub-section (formerly district) championship game for the third time overall and the first time since 2001 - the first of two all-conference campaigns for current head coach Kelsey (Anderson) Morken.

Spring Grove returns two of last year's seven-girl playing rotation - senior Amelia Solum and freshman Maggie Lile. Freshman Addyson McHugh makes three of the eight letter winners.

However, graduation claimed 98% of last year's set assists, 94% of the blocks, 88% of the kills, 78% of the ace serves and 67% of the digs. 

Picking up diplomas were five of last year's six servers, the program's first All-State player, all three All-SEC selections and a three-year starting setter. There is only one senior this autumn.

Four reasons why

So from where does optimism come for 2019? Here are four reasons why the Lions are capable of surprising those who primarily recognize the loss of five accomplished seniors.

First, Morken says the 2019 Lions are especially coachable and willing to work. 

Secondly, the coach noted the girls' dedication to "keep it going," referring to that string of highly successful seasons.

Third, the few (two) returning starters posted some impressive numbers on the court as well as in the classroom; both were Academic All-Conference. 

Solum was tied for the most ace serves with 39 instant winners. She ranked fourth with 100 kills. Defensively, Solum had the second-most digs (258), and Lile ranked fourth (221) as an eighth grader.

Fourth, those stepping up to varsity responsibility for the first time are indeed talented, too. They proved that during summer league action when they joined the two veterans to defeat four larger Class AA schools - Byron, St. Charles and Plainview-Elgin-Millville while splitting a pair of matches versus Lewiston-Altura.

Morken has built a solid program; those assuming new varsity roles prepared on the 2018 B-team that went 11-8, including a 10-4 record versus SEC competition. Last year's freshman team was 8-5-1 while two junior high squads combined for a 21-20 record (12-8 SEC). 

True, there is only one senior, but overall numbers are strong with 28 candidates in grades 9 through 12. Varsity dozen

The season will start with 12 girls in varsity uniforms. The expected eight-player rotation features one senior, two juniors, two sophomores and three freshmen. 

Spring Grove will again start with a 5-1 (one setter) attack. Sophomore Rachel Normann, last year's B-team setter, moves into the starting varsity lineup at that all-important position.

Amelia Solum(5-foot-7), already a three-year letter winner and the lone returning server, will be back as an outside hitter.Lile(5-6) will serve and is also an outside hitter this year after earning a varsity letter at libero a year ago. McHugh (5-9) will be in the serving rotation this season after recording 24 varsity kills and 5 blocks while lettering last year as an eighth grade middle hitter. Brielle Neeley, a 5-10 sophomore, is the other middle hitter. Freshman Lydia Solumis also slated for front row duty.

Two juniors will specialize in defense and be part of the serving rotation. VaNessa Peterson, who was voted the 2018 Most Improved Player, was an outside hitter on last year's B-team but will be the varsity libero in 2019. Junior Paige Jahnke will also be a major contributor as a defensive specialist and server.

Adding depth will be junior hitters Kelsey Bratlandand Piper Thompson.

Sophomore Julia Halversonand freshman Kenadee Gerardwill be available for varsity action but will see most court time with the B-team.

B-team/freshmen squads

There is an encouragingly large number of players who will begin the season developing their skills and knowledge in the preliminary matches.

Sophomore candidates include setters Ava Olerud and Hailey Borreson along with libero Jordian Leahy and hitters Brianna Johnson, Emma Tyribakken, McKenzie Fisch, Hattie Sanness and Danika Holty.

Freshmen netters are defensive specialist Ella Wennes plus hitters Ellyce Walsh, Madilyn Ostern, Peyton Thompson, Lydia Chase, Kylie Reynolds, and Alisa Moran.

Eighth grade hitter Katelyn Kraus is also practicing with the high school players.


Morken says the Lions are "scrappy" on defense and will "keep balls alive."

With the graduation of most starting hitters, there will be an emphasis in practice on terminating the attack. Serve receive is another area of attention.

There should be some confidence coming off a successful summer season. That confidence would be bolstered with some early success on the scoreboard. 

The Lions scrimmaged three teams at Lewiston-Altura on Tuesday of this week. Then it will be a busy first week of matches when the Lions open on Tuesday, Aug. 27, at Randolph before the Aug. 29 home opener against LeRoy-Ostrander. Fewer than 48 hours later comes the all-day, Saturday Mabel-Canton Tournament.


Lion Volleyball – the last 6 seasons

2018…27-4 (12-2 SEC East, 2nd of 5)

2017…22-7 (11-2 SEC East, 2nd of 5)

2016…17-12 (10-4 SEC East, 2nd of 5)

2015…15-13 (9-5 SEC East, 3rd of 5)

2014…14-14 (9-5 SEC East, 3rd of 5)

2013…19-11 (10-3 SEC East, 2nd tie)

Conference championships: 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1984, (1983?)


Spring Grove Volleyball 2019

approximately 7:15 p.m. unless noted. home matches in bold/ *conference matches 

08/27..at Randolph*    


08/31..at M-C Tournament 8:30 am

09/03..at Lanesboro*   


09/12..at Schaeffer Academy*


09/17..at Houston*      


09/21..at Waukon Tourney 8 am         


09/26..Grand Meadow*                    

10/01..at Mabel-Canton*

10/07..Caledonia 7 pm          


10/10..at Kingsland*   

10/14..at Lyle/Pacelli* (Austin)