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Kessler leads Beulah to state volleyball tournament

Press Photo by Royal McGregor Beulah senior setter Lakin Kessler, left, and junior outside hitter Jaime Murschel, right, go up for a block against Richardton-Taylor’s Shayna Frederick during a Region 7 match on Oct. 8 in Richardton.

For the last three years, the Beulah volleyball team reached the Region 7 championship game.

In two of those three seasons, the Miners had the same setter — senior Lakin Kessler.

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Kessler, who was named Region 7 senior athlete of the year last week, helped Beulah reach the North Dakota Class B state volleyball tournament which it begins at 7 p.m. today against Carrington at the Minot State Dome.

“These are going to be my last three games, so I want to — not only embrace the atmosphere and got out there and have fun — play our hardest and remember why we are representing the region this year,” Kessler said. “I have a really good feeling about this weekend.”

As the starting setter, Kessler has come out on the winning and losing end of the Region 7 title game. In 2012, the Miners lost in five sets to Dickinson Trinity, but Beulah returned the favor by sweeping the Titans on Oct. 14 at Knights of Columbus Activities Center.

Beulah head coach Kevin Peterson said everything flows through Kessler and she does a great job of distributing the ball all over the court.

“She has a lot of natural ability,” said Peterson, who was named Region 7 coach of the year. “She has the ability to read where we can go at certain situations and where we can’t go at certain situations. She’s so consistent on her placement, so she gives our attackers opportunities to be success on nearly every ball that she puts up.”

In turn, the Miners have a potent offense as five different players can put the ball on the floor. The three main players Kessler finds quite often are senior middle blocker Nicole Schramm and junior outside hitters Jaime Murschel and Delaney Johansen. Kessler will also find senior middle blockers Courtney Mitchell and Cassidy Schutt throughout matches.

Kessler said it’s a luxury to have multiple players put the ball on the floor.

“All of our hitters move the ball around really well,” she said. “They all know the game extremely well and I can trust them all. It’s really nice having all of those options.”

Likewise, Kessler’s offensive weapons are glad to have her dishing out the ball.

“We have a lot more options,” Murschel said. “We can move the ball to any spot pretty much and we have a hitter there that we can trust and be smart with the ball.”

Along with winning the Region 7 title and senior athlete of the year, Kessler achieved her 2,000th career assist in the title match. Peterson broke the news to Kessler after the match.

“She was teary eyed,” Peterson said. “She’s one of those kids that doesn’t play for that reason, but when you have great kids, certain great accomplishments are met. She’s very appreciative. Her teammates felt it and everyone was enjoying everything together.”

The one area Kessler said she has matured the most is in her ability to see the entire floor.

However, Peterson said the biggest change has been in Kessler’s defensive ability. He said there’s no doubt in his mind if Kessler was a libero, she would be an all-state selection.

“Her vision of what she sees other attackers doing, whether it is in the center of the court or making a read on a tip ball, she puts herself in such good position to be successful,” Peterson said. “The last couple weeks, some teams really targeted her to try to take her out of her setting role. Once they understood how good of defender she is, they started moving the ball away from her.”

With returning nearly every player from 2012, the Miners had high hopes entering the season. Beulah was saddled by a barrage of injuries and illnesses. The Miners continued to get healthy and the team started running on all cylinders.

Kessler said the beginning of the season was a good wake-up call. The Miners couldn’t take it easy. Beulah learned from the mistakes and went on to win a Region 7 title.

“We knew our potential,” Kessler said. “Right away, I think we expected as success as we were the year before. We kind of got lost on some things at the beginning of the year, but we’ve made some big strides since then.”