Team: Waconia volleyball
Coach: Jim Lee
Conference: Wright County
Section: 2AAA – Buffalo, Chanhassen, Chaska, Delano, Hutchinson, Mankato East, Mankato West, New Prague, Prior Lake, Shakopee, Willmar
2011 finish: Last season, the Wildcats finished 21-10 overall, second in the Wright County Conference behind Hutchinson. After defeating Delano in the first round of Section 2AAA play, the Wildcats fell to No. 4 (Class 3A) Shakopee on Nov. 1 to end the season. Shakopee went on the win the section, but fell to Hutchinson in the first rounds of the state tournament.
Key losses: Missing from this season’s lineup is All-Conference player Laura Schmitt, who graduated in 2012. Also missing is All-Conference Honorable Mention player Morgan Iverson, who torn her ACL last winter in basketball.
Key returnees: Despite the loss of Schmitt and Iverson, the Wildcats return many of their starting varsity players from 2011 including All-Conference players Anna Pioske and Caroline Jacobs, as well as All-Conference Honorable Mention player Stephanie Dressen. Kristen Wagner, Sam Paulson, and Anna Schmitt also saw varsity time last season and return to this year’s squad.
“We return a lot of experience,” Lee said.
Teams to beat: In conference play, Lee and the Wildcats are looking to take down Hutchinson, Mound-Westonka, Delano, and Glencoe-Silver Lake. Waconia defeated Mound-Westonka, Delano, and Glencoe-Silver Lake at least once last season. The Wildcats lost in their lone contest against Hutchinson. At sections, it will again be Hutchinson and Delano as teams to beat, along with section mates Chaska and Shakopee.
Goals: Lee said the team doesn’t set season goals, because in that situation, sometimes competitors are overlooked in the schedule. This season’s schedule is one of the toughest the Wildcats have ever seen. First up this season are two homes games against conference newcomer New London-Spicer and defending Class AAA state champion Eden Prairie.