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Skylights look for new core during spring competition

 

Last updated 4/12/2022 at 8:10am

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Northern's Alyssa Pretty Weasel spikes the ball against Montana Tech at Armory Gymnasium last season. The Skylights have been in their spring ball over the past few weeks, including competition against other schools such as University of Providence and Tech. Pretty Weasel and other players on the MSU-N volleyball hope to use this time to improve in order to replace the production of their departing seniors.

While the college volleyball season will not begin until later this fall, that does not mean the Montana State University-Northern volleyball team cannot begin preparations for it now. Over the past few months, the Skylights have been hard at work in their spring ball sessions. The players have had to deal with school and the upcoming Easter holiday during spring ball, but MSU-N head coach Jerry Wagner believes they have handled it well so far.

"It's going as well as it can," Wagner said. "We're working around our academics but I think we're getting a lot accomplished."

The most prominent aspect of spring ball is the Skylights' competition against other schools. This past weekend in Great Falls, the Skylights played three sets to 25 points against the University of Providence and Montana Tech. In both matches, the Skylights won a set. The Skylights lost several pivotal seniors from last season, so Wagner believes they played well as they try to formulate a new core.

"We're trying to reestablish ourselves on the outside," Wagner said. "The people in the program have stepped in and I was very happy with how we responded in our first outing of the spring."

The Skylights plan on competing in another spring competition on April 23, which will conclude spring ball. At the Armory Gymnasium on the MSU-N campus, the Skylights will host Canadian school Medicine Hat College. The squads will play competitive drills in the morning before playing four or five sets in the afternoon.

Other than competition, the Skylights have been working on their skills throughout the spring. They started in late February to begin 10 weeks of training. While they have had to deal with academics during that time, Wagner believes the players have kept themselves ready for volleyball.

"They've done a really good job on their own of staying in condition," Wagner said.

Wagner will be looking to replace the production of departing seniors such as Elissa Lind, Rylee Burmester and Abigail Ellison. In terms of outside hitting, Wagner believes players such as Olivia Isakson, Jessalyn Chvilicek and Alyssa Pretty Weasel can step up. He also believes Isakson, Chvilicek, Kaitlin Murdock and Hailie George will handle ball handling for them. In the middle, Wagner expects Marlee Bender and Maddison Underdal to step up for the Skylights. As his younger players look to step up, Wagner believes this spring will be important in getting them ready for this fall.

"The number one thing in the spring is to get a few touches, work on individual skill development and then get a few competitions against somebody other than the folks in your gym," Wagner said.

During the spring, Wagner has also been hard at work recruiting. He has already signed three players to the MSU-N volleyball program and is planning on making offers to another two players.

But the Skylights have several players returning that have impressed Wagner so far this spring. Along with Murdock and Pretty Weasel, Emily Feller and Alana Graves have led the way this spring and helped in the rest of the team's development during spring ball.

"They've just been getting better," Wagner said. "I'm really happy to walk into the gym and see those guys leading the charge and driving to get better."

 

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