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Volleyball: New-look Wingers fall to Northfield

Red Wing outside hitter Taylor Quandt comes up with a dig during the second set of Thursday's Missota Conference match with Northfield at Red Wing High School. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)1 / 3
Red Wing assistant coach Kelly Norman chats with her players during Thursday's match. Norman is serving as interim head coach as Heidi Ulwelling prepares for the birth of her child later this month. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)2 / 3
Red Wing's Sara Kelly celebrates after the Wingers score a point in the third set of Thursday's home match against Northfield. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)3 / 3

In a short amount of time, the Red Wing volleyball team has had the script flipped on it season.

With injuries to setter McKenzie Cota and libero Maria Furlong, the Wingers have had to bump players up to the varsity lineup in an effort to find a quality rotation.

And this week, head coach Heidi Ulwelling took a leave from the team as she prepares to give birth later this month, putting assistant coach Kelly Norman in charge until she is ready to return.

It’s been a whirlwind with all the sudden changes, but the Winger players and coaches are just rolling with it late in the season.

“I’m finding out there’s a lot more to do than just coach. There’s a lot of things with the lower levels and what-not,” said Norman, who has coached many of the Winger players on the Red Wing 16s Junior Olympic team. “The girls are adjusting pretty well. … I’ve been around all year so they know what I’m like, they know my style. I’m similar to Heidi in that we have a similar outlook on the game. I’m going where she led off.”

Facing off with Northfield at home Thursday, Red Wing got off to a solid start before the Raiders took control of the match, sweeping the Missota Conference match 25-18, 25-7, 25-11.

“I told them in the locker room (before the game), ‘You guys need to start right off the bat,’” Norman said. “If we don’t, we start playing in the third game and we’re done.”

Red Wing got some quality production at the net via middle hitter and setter Sydney Book’s seven kills and middle hitter Taylor Steger’s three blocks, but the Wingers couldn’t slow down the Raiders’ top hitters. Abby Carpenter and Ellie Etzell had 10 kills while Dayna Dols quarterbacked the offense with 23 set assists.

Etzell was also a force at the net on defense with one solo block and four block assists. Dols also chimed in with four block assists apiece for Northfield (9-8, 3-2 Missota).

All the while, Red Wing is left shuffling a lineup that already has little experience and is adjusting to a 6-2 offense after running a 5-1 for the majority of the season.

The growing pains are there, but Norman continues to see the team make strides.

“Sydney’s doing a good job at that setter role, and Olivia Brown is doing really well in the middle blocking-wise with Taylor,” Norman said. “Taylor Quandt is in a big outside role, and Hannah Bystrom is setting and playing right side for us.

“They’re adjusting well, but the pace of the game is a little fast for them,” Norman added, “but it’ll come for them.”

The Wingers (0-18, 0-5 Missota) travel to New Prague next Thursday.

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia. Prior to becoming regional editor, he was the sports editor of the Red Wing Republican Eagle from 2012-2018. He also worked as the sports editor for the Marshall Independent (2010-2012) and as a sports/news clerk for the St. Cloud Times (2008-2009). He graduated from St. Cloud State University with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication.

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