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New leaders emerge for Roncalli volleyball squad

Aberdeen Roncalli volleyball coach Mandy Smid, far left, looks on as her team practices Wednesday at the Roncalli High School gym. Photo by John Davis taken 8/17/2022

The Aberdeen Roncalli volleyball squad will have a bit of a new look this fall as graduation claimed several cornerstone pieces of the squad. However, there are some familiar faces that are ready to step up to the challenge.

Seniors Ella Hanson and Jazmine Hart-Crissman will be counted on for leadership this season.

“I’ve seen their leadership already in practice, bringing the girls along,” said Roncalli coach Mandy Smid.

Other players who gained valuable varsity experience a year ago include Ava Hanson, Jadiyn Feickert, as well as Maddie Huber and Faith Danielson who are expected to share the role as primary setters.

Smid said some of the returning players may find themselves in new spots on the floor this fall.

“A couple of them might be stepping into some new roles and mixing things up a little bit,” Smid said, “and hopefully finding a home for them where they can be as productive as possible.”

McKenna O’Keefe, who is coming off an injury, and Camryn Bain, who transferred from Aberdeen Central, should help to bolster the squad.

While the Cavaliers may be a bit on the inexperienced side overall, Smid said that does not alter the mindset of the squad.

“I think the expectation is always kind of the ‘Let’s go for it.’ Otherwise, why compete?” Smid said. “We’re out here to do our best, and to work as hard as we can, and to do the best that we can.”

Smid, who has served 10 years as coach of the squad, likes what she has seen in practice as the older players and young members have meshed together.

“I think that this is just going to be a different group; a different dynamic,” Smid said. “There doesn’t really seem to be as much of a divide between the upper and the lower classmen.”

Last year the Cavaliers dealt with their share of adversity throughout the course of the season. Smid is hoping that things will be much different this year.

“Last year was definitely not without some ups and downs and some injuries,” Smid said, “so to be able to go into this year and so far have everyone healthy and excited and meshing well, I think for this time of the year, we’re sitting in a really good spot.”

After one season in Class B, Roncalli is moving back up to Class A this season. The Cavaliers open the season by hosting Northwestern on Tuesday night.

Members of the Aberdeen Roncalli volleyball team warm up before practice Wednesday at the Roncalli High School gym. Photo by John Davis taken 8/17/2022

While the team has talked about goals, Smid said the players will be focused on “setting those individual things that aren’t grand scheme of things way out there, and just finding those things that we can use as more of a step ladder.”

Smid understands the significance of each match when it comes to seed points, but she also knows the benefits of learning and improving each time the Cavaliers step onto the floor.

“(We want to take) one step at a time get to where we need to be and not put so much weight on every match,” Smid said, “also knowing though that as we start talking about seeding points for the SoDak 16 down the road that each game does matter. But if we can take something out of each of those matches, and be ready at post-season time, then that’s really where it’s going to count.”

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