When asked about some of her key players or leaders this season, Freeze Head Volleyball Melissa Thompson didn’t go to any player in particular right away. She explained how her team was experimenting offensively.
“I don’t have anybody that is dominant right now. They’re all like a piece of the puzzle fitting together nicely,” Coach Thompson said. “Right now when one person isn’t executing, hitting-wise, I’ve got two others that are stepping up. But, that being said… they all kind of take turns with the role of being the dominant hitter.”
The Freeze Volleyball team will attempt to fit those pieces of the puzzle together as it begins its 2021 season, having opened on the road versus the Warroad Warriors on August 31. The team opens its home schedule on September 2 versus the Lake of the Woods Bears in Karlstad.
Coach Thompson discussed her team’s shortened season last year, her returning players and some players new to the varsity floor, her team’s practice work, its strengths, and her goals for this season’s team.
Last season’s Freeze team went winless in a shortened six-game season. Immediately following that season, Coach Thompson said she witnessed growth and wondered what could have been with more time.
“Whoever we played, I thought they were in every game. We… had some nice hitting power last year,” Coach Thompson said. “And it just, it was a hard year with COVID… When we’d get our footing to go then we had to cancel a game or we were not in quarantine, but we couldn’t play for a couple of weeks.”
These obstacles made it a “rough” type of year.
“But the girls, their attitudes, they were awesome,” Coach Thompson said. “… Everybody was coming back. They just, they had a lot of fun last year, even if we had six games. So we are sure missing those seniors that graduated last year though.”
Now, the Freeze will start a new season, but with a few missing senior players from a season ago. The Freeze lost three seniors to graduation, including Brooke Fredrickson, Ashley Olson, and Natalie Larson, all having been within the program from the beginning.
Besides Thompson, four other coaches lead a group of 57 Freeze players from seventh to twelfth grade this season. Haylie Holmgren will coach JV and Kayla Leader the C-team. At the junior high levels, Leah Schulz will coach eighth grade and Kelly Magner seventh grade.
The Freeze have numerous returners this season, led by six seniors, in Rhiannon Horien, Sunny Edin, Leo Bring, Brooklyn Melcher, Paige Ombler, and Brooke Glad. As a group, Coach Thompson and her coaching staff have gotten to know these seniors well.
“All of us coaches, all three of us, Kayla, Haylie, and I, talk about these girls like they’re our own kids because I feel like they’ve been in the same group coming up,” Coach Thompson said. “Kind of when we had Kayla, Coach Kayla Leader come on, (this year’s seniors became) kind of like our babies coming up because they’ve just been with her, and so now they’re graduating. Yeah, they’re a fun group to be around… I’m excited for them for this season. They keep me on my toes, I’ll tell you that.”
Coach Thompson highlighted the players who will be playing on the varsity floor this season.
Starting on varsity some as an eighth grader, senior Horien has played as a setter or passer for four to five years. She will be doing the setting again, along with doing a little hitting this year. Coach Thompson is also looking to get Bring involved in the setting action this year, something brand new to her.
“Leo’s kind of a multipurpose player like Rhiannon,” Coach Thompson said. “She’s trying to do some setting and some hitting.”
This supports what the Freeze are trying to do, piece together the right combination.
“It’s a pretty special group of girls, because they’re all taking these little pieces and making it this pretty cool team,” Coach Thompson said. “I’ve had teams like this before, but it’s kind of a special group that way… They’re all kind of filling their niche.”
Seniors Edin, Melcher, Bring, and Glad all played varsity last season and will return to the varsity floor this season to fill their roles. Edin, Bring, and Glad are taking turns as the team’s dominant hitters. Melcher is providing a strong blocking presence for the Freeze, and the team is looking for her hitting to come on as well.
The Freeze will be adding senior Ombler to the varsity roster this season as a serving specialist.
As for underclassmen, Coach Thompson looks for numerous girls to push for varsity time this season, many new to the varsity level.
Freshman Ada Pearson will fill the role as the Freeze libero. Her sister Isabel Pearson, a junior, returns as a back row specialist. Sophomores Lily Holthusen and Riley Fredrickson will take turns in a hitting role, and junior varsity sophomore setter Kaydence Augustine will also fill into the Freeze varsity roster.
Coach Thompson recently brought her team to a character challenge course in Park Rapids— a place she has brought teams in the past. This course challenged the team to get through three high obstacles together. The team’s student managers even came along and made it through all the obstacles.
“We always come away, I feel, closer as a team, because we’ve worked together (and) we faced fears. We talked about some of our struggles,” Coach Thompson said. “… I was very proud of them because everybody completed every task. Nobody backed away from anything. And they were fearful, there being some have fear of heights, and they all just, they rocked the course.”
Now the team will shift its focus toward another course— its regular season. It will do that as it continues to put the right pieces of its puzzle together to compete in a section that Coach Thompson said features some tough teams.
“Everybody has an athletic team and everybody wants to win and it’s going to be interesting every game,” Coach Thompson said. “So we’re going to have to be ready to play every game.”
To see the complete story, read the September 2 issue of the North Star News in print or online.