By Cara L. Dempski
ELK MOUND — Elk Mound coach Sam Weix has a clear memory of losing last year’s conference championship to Colfax.
“I had someone come up and need a reaction quote for the game,” Weix said, “I needed a moment or two to just absorb it.”
Coming off a 7-1 conference record and a trip to the playoffs in 2015, Weix said that the level of play will have gone up again. It doesn’t help that she lost seven of last year’s team to graduation in May.
Graduate Hannah Flatness provided a substantial amount of offensive support, which Weix said she will miss. Likewise, she will miss the defensive play of Abbey Olsen. A third graduate, Serena Weiser was able to provide another option on offense for the team last year. Also missing this year are Kayla Black, Emily Finder, McKenna Zurbuchen and Isabella Cater.
Flatness, Weiser, Olsen, and now-senior Morgan Radtke were named to all-conference teams in 2015, and Flatness was further named to the all-area honorable mention team.
What could keep the team moving are the seven letter winners who return to this year’s Mounder volleyball squad. Weix believes they could all be a big asset to the 2016 team.
This group of seven includes Morgan Radtke, the tallest volleyball player in the Dunn-St. Croix. Radtke returns to the middle for both offense and defense and is known as other coaches in the conference as a talented hitter.
With Radtke are two setters, Madysen Borofka and Karie Jo Nigon, a handful of outside hitters, Allie Weber, Jenna Heit and Lauren Scharlau, and a defensive specialist in Jordyn Abramowicz.
Four seniors are stepping up to this year’s varsity team and have potential to provide the Mounders with variety in their offense and defense. These players are Mikayla Solberg, Riley Radtke, Sarah Sweeney and Colleen Olson.
One of the younger members of the team who is hoping to make some big contributions this year is Kourtney Zurbuchen. The young player was moved up to the varsity squad at the end of 2015 and Weix disclosed that she is excited about Zurbuchen’s potential.
Also earmarked as a young player to watch is Cassidy Yakesh, who served as an outside hitter. She is joined by defensive specialists Alex Jenson and Abby Curry.
When asked about her team’s strengths, Weix responded with “We return a good group of experienced players which should help us, especially in close matches.”
She followed up by stating that the Mounders’ biggest challenge will be consistent play through each match and through the entire season, which means the team will need to improve on passing.
Weix and her team are in the hunt for a conference title again this year, and she said it’s going to be a difficult year because of the strong players and teams in the Dunn-St. Croix. She said there are also plenty of contenders for the top spot in the conference.
“I think the door is pretty open this year,” Weix said of the conference competition. “It’ll just be fun to see how things unfold and hopefully we can show up each night knowing every match is going to be a great battle.”
Weix is in her second year coaching at Elk Mound and will be assisted by Jennifer Garnett, Darla Diermeier and Wende Kasakastis.
The Mounders open their season with a tournament August 26 and 27 in Menomonie before playing through a quad in Gilman on August 30. They will play another quad on September 8 before finishing their non-conference play at Chippewa Falls McDonnell on September 10.
The first conference game will be played in Mondovi on September 15.
Seniors: Karie Jo Nigon, Jenna Heit, Lauren Scharlau, Jordyn Abramowicz, Mikayla Solberg, Riley Radtke, Sarah Sweeney, Colleen Olson.
Juniors: Madysen Borofka, Allie Weber, Kourtney Zurbuchen
Sophomores: Morgan Ratdke
Freshmen: Alex Jenson, Abby Curry.