2017 Viroqua High School volleyball team

Members of the 2017 Viroqua volleyball team include (front, from left) Claire Anderson, Ivy Shonka, Gaia Unity, Morgan Inman, Alexis Fortney, Serena Baker; (middle) Kylie Buroker, Makenzie Stalsberg, Chandlor Volden, Ashlee Gander, Valarie Buroker, Haley Olson, Olivia Thew; (back) Erica Tryggestad, Madysen Zitzner, Natalie Waldenberger, Jenna Harless and Rebecca Schipper.

Heading into her 11th season at the helm of the Viroqua girl’s volleyball program, head coach Katie Schwartz has a different perspective on this year’s team, when compared to the 2016 squad.

In the 2016 season preview, Schwartz said, “We lost a lot of seniors last year (six from the 2015 team), so this year we are looking for a lot of individuals to step up with very little varsity experience.” When asked about the 2017 Blackhawk netters, Schwartz said, “We are a very senior heavy team this year with some girls that have experienced success in other sports…I expect we will compete this season and be in a lot of games that hopefully we will come out on top of. I feel this leadership will be the key to our success this season.”

The Blackhawks saw just three athletes graduate from last year’s squad, which finished with a 13-14 season record, including middle blocker Ella Swenson, opposite hitter Tara Reber and all-conference outside hitter Kaitlyn Holtz.

A pair of All-Coulee Conference players, setter Claire Anderson and middle/outside hitter Natalie Waldenberger, both seniors, lead the list of experienced veterans into the 2017 season. Waldenberger (basketball and softball) and Anderson (basketball and track) are three-sport athletes. In addition, Schwartz is looking to hockey goal-tending standout Ivy Shonka, also a senior, to play a key role as the team’s “defensive specialist.”

Despite having this trio of battle-tested players, the Blackhawks are still looking to fill some key positions.

“We are still moving some players around at different positions and the team chemistry with new players will be a focus for our team,” Schwartz said.

Looking at the Coulee Conference race, Schwartz said, “Black River Falls will be strong this season and Arcadia had some good young hitters last year…I think how we will do will depend on how quickly we can establish our team chemistry. I know we can compete with the top teams.”

The Blackhawks have established a team motto of “Strong Alone…Unstoppable Together” for the 2017 season, and Schwartz likes the fact that the girls select their own motto.

“I like to put this on the girls to take some ownership in what their goals will be for the season. I feel if they have a part in this they tend to hold themselves and each other more accountable.”

Joe Willis (junior varsity) and Amanda Scherr (C-team) will be assisting Schwartz this year.

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Angie Cina is editor of the Vernon County Broadcaster. Contact her at 608-637-5616.

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