Taking strides forward

Slow start with a painful finish, but another promising season for Majettes volleyball

Alex Eisen/MDN The Minot High volleyball team celebrates after a point scored in a match earlier this season.

When Sherry Carlson stepped in as the new Minot High School volleyball coach last year, the Majettes were coming off a troublesome two-win conference campaign.

Two seasons later, Minot High is a relevant contender in the West Region again by racking up 17 conference wins with Carlson at the helm.

The Majettes posted a 20-20 overall record (8-10 WDA) this season. It’s the program’s first season without a losing record since 2007.

The quick turnaround hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Despite the Majettes coming a win short of reaching the state tournament for a second year in a row this past weekend in Mandan, Carlson was named the WDA Coach of the Year.

Alex Eisen/MDN Majettes volleyball coach Sherry Carlson after addressing her team during a timeout in a match played earlier this season in Minot. Carlson was named the WDA Coach of the Year.

“It’s quite an honor to get that,” Carlson said. “But, as I have the certificate, I just have to point at the girls because it’s what they have done. They have taken everything to heart. I couldn’t have asked for more from these kids. Even after we lost and our chances of going to state were done, it took quite a while for the girls to recover. They took the loss very hard. It just shows you how much they have worked to try and get to state. It was quite an emotional day.”

Minot got off to a rocky start this season by losing eight out of its first 11 matches.

The Majettes flipped the switch and went 16-7 from the middle of September to mid-October, but then faltered down the stretch with five losses in their last six matches. That includes the four-set defeat to Bismarck High in a state qualifier match at the WDA tournament.

A heartbreaking loss, as Minot couldn’t break the program’s six-year state tournament drought.

“That will always be the goal, and I think that is for every team,” Carlson said about making it to state. “It’s really competitive with the top six, seven (WDA) teams, and that’s when it’s fun. I love being in the hunt and being competitive.”

Minot was only swept five times in its 19 best-of-five matches they played in.

“They have really improved, definitely,” Carlson said. “I can kind of quote what the other coaches are seeing and what they’re saying is that (our) competitive level has really risen. The passing is probably the No. 1 thing that everybody talks about… And, for me, that is so big because that’s exactly what I asked them to do and they did it.”

Senior setter Brooke Nelson led the WDA during the regular season with 33.3 assists per game, senior outside hitter Elise Klein averaged 11.1 kills per conference game and senior All-WDA tournament libero Rylee Terrel collected 18.9 digs — third-most in the WDA regular season.

Minot also got senior contributions from six-rotation player Kali Askvig, right-side hitter Abby Jarmin, defensive specialist Ashlyn Almy and upbeat Gwen Mathews.

“Take all that and all that they have contributed, it is a lot,” Carlson said. “It’s a lot to replace.”

Losing seven seniors is going to be a challenge, but the Majettes do have some experienced talent ready to step in.

Up the middle of the court, the junior tandem of Sydney Beck and Caitlyn Messner proved difficult to get the ball past. Minot also has a few options at setter with Hailey Espe and Paige Rosencrans. Defensively, it’s feasible that rotating defensive specialist Morgan Theis will slide over and become the next libero.

Nevertheless, there is a foundation for continued success in place.

So, with another season wrapped up, Carlson continues improving her already impressive track record with high school volleyball teams in Minot. The former alumna of Minot High, who helped start both the Bishop Ryan and Our Redeemer’s volleyball programs, is well on the way to restoring her alma mater.

While there are two agonizing state qualifiers losses to swallow, the goal of getting the Majettes back into the state tournament appears to be on the horizon.

Alex Eisen covers Minot High School, Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.