Sixteen is the magic number for girls high school volleyball this year. Class A post-season play was just changed to a Sweet 16 and Nancy Hoeke starts her sixteenth year as head coach of the Lady Dawgs.
Hoeke explained how the Sweet 16 works. “After two rounds of the region tournament, two teams remain in each region. Those teams from across the state will be re-seeded and enter a Sweet 16 tournament. A region championship game will not be played nor will a region champion be crowned. The top seed will face #16, #2 will take on #15, #3 will battle #14 and so on. The eight winners from each of those games will advance to the State Class A tournament. That tournament is slated for November 17-19 in Watertown.
The Lady Bulldogs boast a core of experienced players returning to their line-up. The five seniors leading the team include: Mikaela Hoeke, Mackayla Schuelke, Madison Schulte, Mady Hilbrands, and Caryssa Mielitz. Other returning letter winners are Molly Rick and Maty Lightfield.
Mielitz led the team in kills as an outside hitter. According to Hoeke, she also plays a great back row. M. Hoeke led the team in assists as the setter. “She’s an intense player and makes a lot of plays that keep the ball alive, Coach Hoeke said. “She’s down on the floor after the ball a lot. Schuelke is the secondary setter and a solid back row player as well,” she added. “She is steady and brings consistency to the team. Schulte took over the libero uniform last season and remains in that role this year. She gives her best effort each night to bring success to the Lady Bulldogs. And Rick is a middle and outside hitter showing more consistency and power.”
As Hoeke heads into her sixteenth season, she will be assisted by Nancy Pauli as the junior varsity coach and Jolene Rick as the C team coach. Coach Hoeke holds a 319-124 record. The team completed 2015 with an 18-12 overall record, the Region 1A championship title, and a seventh place finish at the State Class A tournament.
“We had a lot of fun matches last year,” Hoeke stated. “The highlight of the season was a come-back 3-2 win over Madison on the road after trailing 2-0. Also, defeating Groton 3-0 in the region championship was exciting.” Coach Hoeke feels Redfield-Doland will be the team to beat in the Northeast Conference this season. “Webster, Groton Area, and Aberdeen Roncalli will all have tough teams and I expect good matches.”
Milbank Area will also battle several top teams in Class B throughout the season. They face Northwestern and Arlington and tough competition at the Sioux Falls Christian tournament Labor Day weekend.
Milbank will host the Eastern Volleyball Classic this year. Eight teams battle it out Saturday, September 24, at the Milbank Armory. Coach Hoeke said, “There’s tons of volleyball that day so come out and support the Lady Bulldogs.”
Season schedule for the Milbank Area Lady Bulldogs:
Lady Bulldog Volleyball