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All-Area Volleyball: Pickar on patrol

Cannon Falls' Tatum Pickar finished the 2017 volleyball season with 582 digs, 41 ace serves, 51 kills and 21 set assists, helping the Bombers reach the Section 1AA-West semifinals. Joe Brown / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
A three-time first team All-Area selection, Cannon Falls' Tatum Pickar is a three-time All-Hiawatha Valley League selection. Joe Brown / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 3
Cannon Falls' Tatum Pickar, the 2017 Republican Eagle All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year, is a two-time Class AA All-State selection in both her junior and senior seasons. Joe Brown / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

If you beat Tatum Pickar once, good on you. Not many balls get past a two-time All-State libero.

The next time you try the same thing on the Cannon Falls senior standout, she's going to come out ahead.

"It is frustrating," Pickar said about watching a ball hit the floor. "But once I see it pass, I'm not going to let another one like that pass again."

Pickar always had the physical tools, finding her way onto the Bombers' varsity squad as a defensive specialist in her freshman year and as the full-time libero as a sophomore. But what set the 2017 Republican Eagle All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year apart from the pack was how she learned to analyze the game.

"She is just a complete learner. She's very coachable," said Cannon Falls head coach Melissa Huseth. "She's a kid that will never stop learning. She'll take little things from coaches she's worked with and works to improve it. She's very open to trying new things and she's a great teammate. She really will do what's best for the team."

Digging balls was a natural skill for Pickar, but she didn't make the move to defensive specialist/libero until her freshman year. Prior to that, she was being groomed into a setter.

But, setting never seemed like the right fit.

"I transitioned to libero because I never grew much more," said Pickar, who is listed at 5-foot-4. "Setting wasn't really my forte at all. I always dug the ball instead of setting the ball."

Pickar's athleticism is what set her apart as a youngster, with Huseth noting her quick feet in particular. However, she needed to make better reads on the ball, namely in serve-receive.

Pickar absorbed any advice from her coaches like a sponge, whether it was from Cannon Falls, from her Northern Lights Juniors squad or from camps she attended.

"What really helped me in serve-receive was to read the ball before it passes over the plane of the net, which really helps a lot. I got that advice from (former assistant coach) Natalie Renardy," Pickar said. "Staying low throughout the period of the match, I got that from Huseth."

"I found ways to put Tatum in the middle of the court and had her taking two-thirds of the passes," Huseth said. "Not only were her feet quick, she has very good ball control. People weren't able to serve away from her. For a high-school server, it's hard to find the corners on the court, so I knew if I put Tatum in the middle, we'd have a pretty good chance."

In 2017, Pickar finished with team highs in digs (582), ace serves (41) and passing (2.44 rating on 605 attempts). She finished her varsity career with 2,080 digs and 104 ace serves and a 95.4 serve percentage.

"Every opponent that we played, they were always keeping an eye on Tatum," Huseth said. "Anyone that was a successful program knew they had to attack areas that Tatum Pickar didn't work in."

A three-time, All-Hiawatha Valley League pick, a two-time Class AA All-State selection and an Academic All-State pick, Pickar was arguably the best defender from one of the top volleyball conferences in the state.

"This year, I really enjoyed digging against Hayfield. Peyton Seuss (from Kasson-Mantorville) was another one I enjoyed going up against," Pickar said. "I really enjoy digging against really good offensive teams. Every time we play a big, strong offensive team, I get super excited."

Helping the Bombers to a 16-14 record as a senior, Pickar's volleyball career will resume in the junior college ranks as she plans to attend North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, N.D.

"The coach reached out to me and I figured I should check out the college and see if I like it. And I ended up really liking it," Pickar said. "I liked how the dorms were set up, how neat and tight the campus was set up. And volleyball was just a bonus."

It was tough to get a ball past Pickar. She earned plenty of respect as a top-notch defender.

"It was an honor, really. I really enjoyed going through the whole thing," Pickar said. "I just had a really fun time and the respect came along with it, which was pretty cool."

Huseth added, "It was pretty special to have her in the program. I'm really lucky. She's the complete package. She has a great family that supports Tatum in her decisions. She's always positive and always volunteering. She's just the real deal. Tatum is just pretty special."