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Ridgewater volleyball seeks to maintain national momentum

Returning sophomores at Ridgewater College are, from left, setter Darcie Listul, outside hitter Steph Boulton, outside hitter Melissa Deal, middle hitter Stephanie Tillman, outside hitter Emma Koeberl and outside hitter Karie Blommel. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton

WILLMAR -- The Ridgewater College volleyball team opens today with its two-day Lady Warrior Classic. The field is the strongest yet, states coach Joe Sussenguth.

Stephanie Tillman, a returning All-America hitter, returns for Ridgewater.

Six sophomores, including Tillman, dot a 16-player roster, about four more players than usual.

With Tillman a fixture in the middle, Briana Jacobson and Alison Mason are racing for the other center spot. Macy McKay is the top prospect at right-side hitter. Emily Roelike looks good at outside hitter with Karie Blommel, Missy Deal and Abby Halter vying for the other spot, confirmed the head coach.

Brandi Bodin and Darcie Listul are slated to be the defensive specialists and Listul is one of four candidates at setter. This is another quality team that will battle for state and perhaps national laurels with a lineup largely from cities under 2,000.

Sussenguth starts his fourth season with a track record of three straight national finals in Division III of the NJCAA. Last year's squad, facing the toughest non-division schedule he could scare up, finished 27-10.

This Lady Warrior lost All-America Leah Miller and plus other two-year starters, Jordan Olerud (UM-Morris) and Carina Fesenmaier (Dakota Wesleyan).

While there's no one over 6-foot, Sussenguth says this team has more "pop" in its hitting than any team he's had here.

The Lady Warriors are playing Dakota State JV at 2 p.m. today and Bismarck State at 6 p.m. On Saturday, their matches are at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. with Dawson (Montana) CC and Rock Valley (Illinois) CC, respectively. It's the strongest field yet for an invite at Willmar; also coming here are North Iowa Area CC and Ellsworth (Iowa) CC.

Sussenguth has a 92-24 match record in his first three seasons with a national title in 2006. The Willmar-based team finished first last year in the MCAC South Division, winning a tiebreaking match with Rochester. They were state runner-up and went on to win Region 13A.

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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