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BBE junior setter Julie Hieserich, shown here putting up a set at the state Class A quarterfinals last November at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, is one of the returning starters for BBE. (Tribune file photo by Rand Middleton)

BBE rebuilding project doesn't take long time

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Many volleyball observers felt Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa would have a difficult time finishing above .500 this season, let alone amassing the 30-win mark that the team has done the past two seasons. After all, the Jaguars lost two All-Area first team hitters Heidi Lensing and Emily Roelike, as well as All-Area libero Jenny Hieserich and another excellent player in hitter Ashley Serbus to graduation.

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But BBE is off to a 6-1 start already this season, including a 3-1 finish in the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Invitational this past weekend.

"We have been blessed at BBE with excellent athletes who have a love for volleyball," said BBE coach Kevin Weller, via e-mail on Monday. "Every year we seem to have someone new step up who has been waiting behind athletes like the four mentioned. They have been waiting for their opportunity."

Despite the revamped lineup, BBE's objective stayed the same.

"Our goals are the same every year," Weller said. "We want to win conference, section and improve our state performance. But our main goal is to find the right chemistry by mid-season and improve every game so we are playing our best at playoff time."

The Jaguars have been to state each of the past two seasons, losing both matches two years ago and finishing fourth last year in Class A.

But Weller knew replacing the aforementioned athletes wasn't going to be easy, no matter how many players stepped up their game. He held a team meeting to talk about just such a thing.

"We discussed that we can't replace any of those great players, but we have players back with a lot of experience and our setter, Julie Hieserich, is back," he said. "We will need to develop new players to fill the roles that last year's players had and also new leaders to lead the team. We do have players on this team that are pushing themselves to fill those big shoes."

BBE swept Sauk Centre, a perennial power in the West Central Conference, in the season opener on Sept. 3 in Brooten. Sauk Centre and New London-Spicer are expected to contend for the conference crown this season.

Maggie Gruber, Shannon Gruber and Rachel Anderson are players Weller is relying on as his new "go-to" players this season. Each saw time on the varsity a season ago when the Jaguars posted a 31-3 record.

"On defense, Raeann Sorenson, Anna Marthaler and Kelsey Kampsen have been impressive in the early going and improving as the season progresses," said Weller. "Also, defensively, we have a lot of help from 6-foot-1 Lauren Anderson and 6-3 Kim Borgerding, who have been improving every match and are a force at the net.

"Sorenson has done a great job adjusting to the libero position after playing outside hitter last season. And freshman Brittany Roelike is settling into the fast pace of varsity volleyball very well."

So, does Weller and his players feel they will come together enough to enjoy another 30-win campaign?

"Thirty is a big number when each year we are trying to create a tougher schedule," said Weller. "But I know this team will do its best to reach that goal."

The Jaguars, who beat Hancock Monday night in Hancock, will play at Rockford tonight in a Central Minnesota Conference match.

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