The Blue Earth Area Buccaneer volleyball team has some empty spaces to fill this season.
The Bucs finished last season with a 9-1 South Central Conference record, but lost several key players to graduation.
This volleyball season will see the return of just one senior who saw a good amount of varsity playing time.
The 2013 Blue Earth Area Buccaneer volleyball team includes, front row, left to right: Emma Olson, Devyn Braunshausen, Analicia Swanson, Audrey McDonald, Bethany Olson and Mariah Twedt. Middle row:?Kylie Ahl, Ciarra Olson, Haley Resutek, Nicole Krinke and Elizabeth Ellis. Top:?Rena Zierke.
"Audrey McDonald had a lot of court time last year,"?Buc Coach Donna Nawrocki says. "She played outside last year."
Beth Olson, Ciarra Olson and Nicole Krinke also dressed varsity for a majority of the games last season.
"I?will expect some leadership from those four girls," the coach explains.
However, she isn't going to single out any players yet as the practices thus far have shown a good amount of competition between the players.
Nawrocki also says that many of the positions on the court have not been assigned yet.
"Every year is a new set of puzzle pieces to put together,"?she says. "And we are lacking that varsity experience."
Each practice the girls are working at every position until they settle into roles on the court. But, Nawrocki doesn't want the girls to get too comfortable with one position.
"This is teaching the girls not to get too comfortable, but to work on communication with each other," she explains.
Although the 12 girls seven seniors and five juniors don't have the experience of playing on varsity, they do have their strengths on the court.
One of those strengths seems to come from behind the service line.
"We have some strong servers this season,"?Nawrocki says.
But without the height and power at the net, like they had last year, successful serves will be important.
Since the serving skills are there, the girls will be working to perfect their defensive strategy.
"We will have to be very defensive this year,"?Nawrocki says. "Serve receive will be a biggie."
But her strategy is to treat each day individually and start fresh at each practice.
She says that works out in the girls' favor since they continue to be competitive for positions and are getting a wide variety of experience in the different roles.
"They're all working hard because they know the positions can be changed," the coach adds.
The girls on all of the teams have been using these practices as a big learning experience, from the ninth-grade players up to the seniors.
"We practice and then come back and reassess every day,"?Nawrocki says.
The SCC?held the conference scrimmage last Friday which served as a good preview to the other teams the Bucs will compete against this season.
According to the coach, St. Peter and Fairmont looked to have the strongest teams this year.
"Of course our goal is always to win conference," Nawrocki says.
St. Peter and Fairmont have the height and power at the net that the Bucs are lacking.
"We've had a good run and would like to continue," she adds. "But, it will take a lot of work."
The first game of the season will be played in Blue Earth on Tuesday, Aug. 27. The Bucs will face the Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial Knights at 7:30 p.m.
"LCWM will have a nice team again this year,"?Nawrocki says.
And as always she plans to use this first game as a measuring tool for her own team.
"The first game is always a good measure of where we're at,"?she explains.
She adds that practices give a good idea of the girls' skill set, the game situation is the best indicator of how they will do this season.
Then she hopes the team can treat each game as a new game and look at evey match individually.
"The girls have good chemistry out there on the court,"?Nawrocki says. "I look forward to working with this core group of girls."