'Work our tails off for it': Titans volleyball hits the court with state dreams in mind
Last season, the Dickinson Trinity volleyball team captured the Region 7 championship for the first time since 2012.
For All-State setter Alexa Walby, last year's accomplishment was particularly rewarding as she aided the team's six seniors in their swan song by getting a taste of the big dance. Entering her senior campaign, Walby's aim for the Titans in 2018 is just as lofty: a return trip to the state tournament with the chance of delivering the program its first Class B state title.
"Last year, I wanted to get to state because I wanted my seniors to get there," Walby said. "Now I want to get there so that I can remember my last year playing. I want to go out with a bang and I don't want to have any regrets, and I know my team doesn't want to have any regrets, either."
In their run to a seventh-place finish at state, the Titans rattled off a 15-0 perfect record in region play, including 3-0 sweep of Heart River in the Region 7 Tournament title game. Returning a talented squad, Dickinson Trinity is in prime position to repeat that feat, but the squad understands that they will have a target on its back.
"I think there's a lot of pressure from last year making it to state, but these girls are hungry to get back to the state tournament this year," Dickinson Trinity head coach Breanna Sisson said. "I think they're focused. It's a really big goal of theirs to try and make it back, but if we can stay focused and disciplined in practice, hopefully we can reach that goal. It does put a lot of pressure on us, knowing that it's a possibility, but we're going to have to work our tails off for it."
The Titans depth chart this season will feature eight varsity returners, six of which are expected to play regularly.
Walby, along with outside hitters Bre Tessier, Farrah Zeller and middle hitter Masy Kuntz, represent the senior returners, while sophomore hitters Abbey Kubas and Amaya Willer will be key in prominent roles. That group of girls is joined by a pair of varsity newcomers in the rotation: senior defensive specialist Ali Daniel and sophomore libero Asia Willer.
"I'd say that [last year] does give us confidence in one way, but in another way, it also kind of puts pressure on the new girls coming in, which is a good thing because it just means that they have big shoes to fill," said Kuntz, who was selected to the Class B All-Tournament team. "Being that we are returning from state, it doesn't mean that we going to be amazing; we obviously have to work as hard as any other team."
The work for the Titans began on the practice floor as fall practice got underway on Aug. 13. Since then, Dickinson Trinity competed in the Coal Country Invitational, taking first place in the gold division. As the squad prepares for its regular-season opener Thursday on the road against Mott-Regent, the Titans are working through some early-season kinks.
"Right now we are just working on communication and trying to build that chemistry," Sisson said. "Since it is so early in the season, it's hard to find that chemistry without playing a competitive game. So right now we're just trying to be loud in practice, make sure that we're talking. ... We want to make sure we are communicating with everybody on the court."
Senior defensive specialist Lexi Andres and senior outside hitter Macy Gress complete the rest of the returners. Senior hitters Laura Meyer, Kelbi Jacobson and junior outside hitter Kylen Kubas round out the rest of a roster that boasts nine upperclassmen in all.
"It's really cool because we have a lot a seniors this year and we've all played with each other for a long time," Walby said. "To be playing with each other on varsity is really, really fun. We're looking pretty good, I think."