By Cara L. Dempski
COLFAX — The Colfax Vikings finished last season at the top of the Dunn-St. Croix after beating the only other undefeated team in the conference – Elk Mound. The Vikings went on to the playoffs, but were knocked out in sectionals by Grantsburg.
In May, the team said good bye to seniors standouts Lakken Meredith, Marianne Scharlau and Serena Secraw. Meredith, a setter, was named the Dunn-St. Croix player of the year in 2015 and was a recipient of honorable mention from the Wisconsin Volleyball Coaches Association. She will be playing volleyball this fall at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa.
Scharlau will also be moving on to a college volleyball career this fall, playing with the Jamestown University squad in Jamestown, ND. As a senior, the middle hitter was named to the first team all-conference and was co-MVP. Secraw was also named to an all-conference team as an outside hitter in 2015.
Helping out Meredith’s team this year will be a group of seven letter winners and a host of new, young players.
“We are lucky to have plenty of young talented players in our gym,” she said. “We are still working on developing and evaluating their skill.”
Veterans to the team are letter winners like seniors Bryana Buchanan, Megan Schleusner, Erin Nellessen and Mady Decker. Buchanan, to whom Meredith referred as a “defensive dynamo,” will be playing again as libero. In 2015, Buchanan was named second team all-conference. Meredith said Buchanan is able to read the ball and anticipate movement very well.
Schleusner, Nellessen and Decker all possess consistency and good sense of teamwork, according to Meredith. Nellessen is vocal and team-oriented, Decker is a hard worker and quick to the ball, and Schleusner is described as a good leader on the floor.
Junior Makayla Mattson is also someone the Vikings are looking at to make an impact on the court this fall. Fellow juniors RyAnna Martinson and Becca Lee join the returning letter winner on the court.
Finishing the group of letter winners is sophomore Savanna Henricks. In 2015, Henricks played as a starter.
“She’s a natural athlete who comes up with some great plays,” Meredith said of Henricks.
Henricks and fellow sophomores Emma Hurlburt, Alyssa Dachel, Taylor Meyer, Kaitlyn Field, Madison Shipley, Trinity Krueger and Desirae Welk.
This year’s freshmen are Jozie Buchanan, Sam Pretasky, Rachel Scharlau, Kameri Meredith, Taylor Irwin, Addy Olson, Morgan Schleusner, Josie Steinke, Kali Risler, Hailey Klukas, Morgan Jensen and Elizabeth Dachel.
Meredith said she has a lot of spots open on her varsity squad that she doesn’t foresee being filled until after the first few matches of the season. She went on to say that where the Vikings finish in the conference would depend on how quickly she can establish her line-ups. During the preseason, her plan is to highlight players in different lineups to determine strengths and weaknesses. She is hoping to set things before conference play begins to stay at the top of the Dunn-St. Croix.
“If we get out of the gate slow that could hinder our conference standing, but our outlook is how competitive we can be down the home stretch,” Meredith shared.
Defensively, the team looks strong, as it is anchored by the seniors. Offensively, Meredith does have some concerns due to the team’s youth. The Vikings will focus on making big strides, but the coach feels it might be frustrating for some players for a few games and she expects her team to mentally rise above the challenge.
Aggressive serving is something Meredith said would be key to her team this year. With such a young group for offense, she would like to see the team increase its hitting percentage and game IQ to prepare for playoffs and any possible upsets.
As for the non-statistical goals, Meredith said “I anticipate we are going to take our ‘lumps and bumps’ early on, and how well we can keep our battle caps on could ultimately be the deciding factor in our season.”
Meredith and her team are eyeing Elk Mound, Mondovi, and Elmwood as the top competitors for conference play this year. Each team has at least one talented hitter returning for 2016 by Meredith’s estimation, and she said that Mondovi’s athleticism and Elmwood’s discipline in 2015 are carrying over into this year. Meredith said of Elk Mound that in addition to returning multiple talented players, the team has the tallest player in the conference.
Pam Meredith is coaching her 10th season for the Vikings and has her team has won the conference five of the past seven years. In addition, in 2015, the Vikings were honored by both the Wisconsin Volleyball Coaches Association and American Volleyball Coaches Association for consistently maintaining a GPA of 3.4 or above for the entire team. The Colfax girls came in with a collective GPA of 3.733.
Meredith is joined by assistant coaches Linda Bilodeau and Lori Buchanan.
Seniors: Bryana Buchanan, Megan Schleusner, Erin Nellessen, Mady Decker.
Juniors: Makayla Mattson, RyAnna Martinson, Becca Lee.
Sophomores: Emma Hurlburt, Savanna Henricks, Alyssa Dachel, Taylor Meyer, Kaitlyn Field, Madison Shipley, Trinity Krueger, Desirae Welk.
Freshmen: Jozie Buchanan, Sam Pretasky, Rachel Scharlau, Kameri Meredith, Taylor Irwin, Addy Olson, Morgan Schleusner, Josie Steinke, Kali Risler, Hailey Klukas, Morgan Jensen, Elizabeth Dachel.