In a game where height makes all the difference, the Minot High School volleyball team will be using a different plan of attack this season - speed kills.
The Majettes seek their third consecutive state tournament appearance, but will have to rely on solid defense and quickness to compete with taller teams in the West Region.
MHS returns some height in senior middle hitters Morgan Milbrath and Alexandra Bolinske, who both stand at 5 feet, 11 inches. Milbrath and Bolinske replace last year's 5-foot-11 tandem of Holly Johnson and Jayd Eggert. But that's all the team has to work with in terms of height.
Aubrey Wunderlich, right, and Jayden Moum, left, attempt to block Malena Lennon’s shot during practice Thursday at Magic City Campus.
The Majettes have experience to fall back on with five seniors and four juniors making up the majority of the 11-player roster. The other seniors are outside hitter Aubrey Wunderlich, setter Emily Bengson and libero Jessie Kongelf.
"All of our seniors and anyone with experience on the team is really trying to help everyone out," Milbrath said. "There's not a single leader but instead it's more of team leadership."
Coach Ellen Jebens pointed out that the lack of height means a different approach than the typical set-and-spike offense. The Majettes will focus on a fast-paced style of play that relies on digging and outhustling other teams.
Meet the Majettes
Seniors - Aubrey Wunderlich, Morgan Milbrath, Alexandra Bolinske, Emily Bengson, Jessie Kongelf
Juniors - Jayden Moum, Trista Jackson, MaKaila Anderson, Ashley Gathman
Sophomores - Sophie Bengson, Brooke Suko
August - 24-25, Bismarck Invitational; 27, vs. Bismarck Century, 7 p.m.; 30, at Jamestown, 7 p.m; 28, vs. Bismarck Century, 7 p.m.
September - 4, vs. Mandan, 7 p.m.; 7, vs. St. Mary, 7 p.m.; 8, at Dickinson, 5 p.m.; 11, at Bismarck High, 7 p.m.; 21-22, Dickinson Tournament, TBA; 25, vs. Williston, TBA; 28, vs. Jamestown, 7 p.m.
October - 2, at Bismarck-Century, 7 p.m.; 5-6, Fargo Tournament, TBA; 9, vs. Bismarck High, 7 p.m.; 15, at Mandan, 7 p.m.; 23, at St. Mary, 7 p.m.; 30, at Williston, 7 p.m.
November - 8-10, West Region, TBA; 15-17, State Tournament, TBA.
Wunderlich, the only senior outside hitter on the roster, will play a key role on offense as one of the more consistent hitters.
"We're going to do pretty well," Wunderlich said. "As long as we keep hustling and working hard together we'll be fine. We have speed. We have a lot of fast players. Just because we don't have the height doesn't mean we're not strong hitters."
The Majettes are hoping for a strong season out of their setters. Bengson is in charge of orchestrating the offense by setting up Wunderlich, Bolinske and Milbrath for scoring opportunities. The team's offensive ability was on display Thursday during a 25-12 victory in a scrimmage game with the junior varsity.
"We're a different team this year than we were last year," Bolinske said. "Hopefully we'll get to states again."
The Majettes have placed eighth in the state tournament the past two years after losing all three matches. Each time the team failed to win a set in last year's tournament, something Jebens isn't worried about.
"We want to make it out of our conference and do well," she said. "We just want to do the best we can as a team."
The Majettes open the season with the Bismarck Invitational Tournament beginning at 4:15 p.m. Friday against West Fargo High School. The tournament concludes the following day.