The theme of Region 6 volleyball in 2012 proved to be youth.
In the region tournament, a veteran squad from Our Redeemer's Christian School bested a field of budding teams.
This year, Region 6 will exude experience.
Bottineau senior Katryna Hahn (7) and junior Kennedy Azure (14) block a shot against
Kenmare during a Region 6 semifinal match last season at the Minot Municipal Auditorium.
"If some of these teams can pick up where they left off last year," Bottineau coach Steve Dunrud said, "it's going to be pretty competitive volleyball and pretty fun to watch."
Bottineau, which fell in straight sets to the Knights in last year's region tournament championship, appears to be the early favorite this season. The Stars return two all-region selections in senior setter Bailey Neubauer and senior outside hitter Danielle McDonald, and lost only one player to graduation.
"This group of girls definitely like volleyball and they're a very competitive group," Dunrud said. "You put those two things together and you look at our talent and you're going to have some success, there's no doubt."
Before Bottineau upended Kenmare in the region tournament semifinals last year, the Honkers strung together seven straight region championships.
Bishop Ryan coach Kaycee Grochow expects Kenmare to be a contender again.
"We always know that Kenmare is going to be tough come tournament time," she said. "Tim Wallstrum is a great coach and he always gets his girls ready to go."
Said Dunrud: "Even though he graduated a couple girls, those girls know how to play volleyball and then know how to win."
Bishop Ryan, which graduated two players, features an athletic lineup including standouts Gabbie Bohl and Hannah Stewart. Bottineau eliminated the Lions in the region tournament quarterfinals last season.
"Bishop Ryan will be (a contender)," ORCS coach Kara Nunziato said. "They're tall and they've got some strong hitters coming back."
Dunrud pools ORCS with Berthold, Glenburn, Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood, Rugby, Sawyer and Velva as a collection of teams with region championship capabilities.
The majority of the region brings back veteran rosters and top teams that lost key players, like ORCS and Kenmare, have talented players ready to step up, he said.
"Any time you have a successful season, it seems like the next year girls always move up and step into those spots and surprise some people," Dunrud said.
That should make for a compelling season and an exciting Region 6 tournament.
"I really do think we have a hard region," Nunziato said. "Maybe not the hardest, but I think our region puts out some talented girls. It's going to be such a dogfight this year."
Ryan Holmgren covers high school sports and general assignment. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgrenMDN.