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Prep volleyball: Retooled Bluejays on rise again

Tribune photo by Tom Larson Junior’s Lexi Scott, left, and Nicole Brouwer are Central Minnesota Christian’s top players this year. The Bluejays take on state power Minneota for the Camden Conference lead tonight in Prinsburg.

Despite the season they’ve had so far, the Central Minnesota Christian School volleyball team will enter tonight’s game against Camden Conference rival Minneota as an underdog.

The Bluejays are getting used to being overlooked, despite putting up some impressive numbers.

“I think we’re the team that no one expected to be up there,” said Lexi Scott, leader of a team that is tied with the Vikings atop the Camden Conference standings, is 13-1 overall, but still has yet to receive votes in the Class A poll.

“Maybe after (tonight),” she said with a smile.

The Bluejays and Vikings play at 7 p.m. in Prinsburg.

Minneota is 7-0 in the Camden, 17-1 overall, and they are ranked No. 3 in Class A.

The Vikings have played in nine state tournaments since 2001, won the 2009 state championship, were runners-up three times and finished third last year.

CMCS hasn’t lost since its season-opener against Montevideo, and has lost just four games during a 13-match winning streak.

Scott and Bluejays’ setter Nicole Brouwer are the primary players helping CMCS pick up from where it left off from a 22-win season in 2012.

Scott leads the team with 29 ace serves, 195 kills (and a .386 hitting percentage), 36 blocks. The Bluejays junior, a varsity player since eighth grade, is playing back row for the first time this season and leads the team with 160 digs and a solid 2.19 serve receive.

Brouwer, a junior, stepped in for 2012 Tribune All-Area first-teamer Kari Blom and hasn’t missed a beat. She’s serving over 90 percent with 12 aces and she’s made just 33 setting errors in 1,269 attempts, with 509 set assists. She’s made just two hitting errors, with 16 kills, and she’s made 9 ace blocks and has 39 digs.

First-year head coach Terrin DeBoer, a former Bluejays’ star, had to replace three starters this season but felt good about the team’s core and new parts.

“I always saw something special in them, but with new players and new coaches coming in, it was a matter of the relationships they built together,” DeBoer said. “They had to buy into the system I’m trying to implement. I told them they could be good but half of that is them buying into it.”

Scott said the team was anxious to see how it would all add up, too.

“I was worried in our first game because I wasn’t sure how we were going to play together,” Scott said. “It was a lot of new players but we came together and I knew it was going to happen.”

Blom and former CMCS head coach Lindsey Taatjes, who left her chair after last season after having a baby, were instrumental in Brouwer’s development into a top-shelf setter, she said.

Taatjes, who played at the University of Minnesota, and DeBoer, a 2003 CMCS grad who played at Augustana, brought a wealth of experience to the team, Brouwer said.

“I think we have the perfect people in all the positions,” she said. “We have really good players and good chemistry. We’ve been playing well together all season.”

The Scott-Brouwer link has been the key. While Scott was elevated to varsity much sooner, the two are classmates who have spent a lot of time together.

“(Kari) helped me get the feel and when Nicole came in, she was ready,” Scott said. “We just knew what to do.”

“It clicked instantly,” Brouwer said.

Win or lose tonight, matching up against the Vikings will give CMCS a better feel for its development so far, DeBoer said. That, and it will be a lot of fun.

“It’s going to be packed, it’s going to be loud and it’s going to be hot,” DeBoer said. “It will be a fun environment.”

Tom Larson

Tom Larson is the sports editor of the West Central Tribune.

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