By MIKE KRAFT
MDN File Photo
Outside hitter Brooke Suko is one of eight seniors on the Minot High roster this year. Six of those eight gained varsity experience last season.
The Minot State Dome has hosted the Class A and B state volleyball tournaments the past two seasons and both years Minot High has been reduced to watching from the stands.
With the state tournament again in Minot this season, the Majettes aim to end their two-year state tournament appearance drought. Minot hasn't advanced out of the West Region tournament since 2011.
The Majettes were one match away from reaching state in 2012, falling to Bismarck in a state qualifier. Last season, Minot didn't even make it to a state qualifier, falling in a loser-out match to Williston. The Majettes haven't forgotten.
"The girls that are coming back from last season remember bitterly the way the last season ended," Minot coach Ellen Jebens said. "They're highly motivated to ensure that that does not happen again."
Minot returns a slew of experience from last year as this season's roster includes eight seniors - six with varsity experience. The Majettes lost six seniors from last year's squad.
"Everyone's experienced in different ways, so there's always someone there to mentor the younger girls on the team," senior libero Malena Lennon said.
The Majettes won't be the tallest team to take the court on a nightly basis. But what they lack in height they hope to make up for with defense, which Lennon believes to be their biggest strength.
"We're pretty scrappy," she said. "Compared to other teams, we don't have the height, so when it comes back over to our side, we're good about keeping it up off the ground."
Minot's roster consists of four outside hitters, four middle blockers, two setters, one libero and one defensive specialist in senior Autumne Haskell. Senior Sydney Gerding and sophomore Emma Demke look to fill the setter role, which belonged to current Minot State freshman setter Ashley Gathman last season. Demke is one of three sophomores on the roster. Outside hitter Mackinzy MacIver and middle blocker Elizabeth Lucy are the others. Middle blocker Annika Arnold is the lone junior.
"We have a pretty good team coming back from last year," senior outside hitter Brooke Suko said. "We have returning players who know how to play at a varsity level. Knowing who we have coming back from last year I think we have a good chance of making it to state, as long as we keep our competitiveness and stay positive throughout the season."
Suko believes the team's biggest strengths are the front-row offense and the back-row defense. Of the eight middle blockers and outside hitters, five are seniors Suko, Madison Milbrath, Kaitlyn Stenberg, Melora Haagenson and Haddie Lucy.
Getting to state is never an easy task, especially playing in the West Region. Three of the last four state champions have come from the West Region, including the past two. Last year's state championship match featured two West Region teams Jamestown and Century. Bismarck has made the state tournament the last seven seasons, while Century has been among the final eight 11 of the last 12 years. Jamestown has made it the last two years after missing out in its first six seasons.
It's always a tough region for us, but I do feel like we're going to be competitive this season," Jebens said.
For the eight seniors, a state tournament appearance is the goal, a place the Majettes haven't been since they were freshmen.
"Every senior wants to end at the top of their game, so that's our No. 1 goal this season," Lennon said.
Mike Kraft covers Minot High athletics and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft24_MDN.