Five of six starters return in 2004 for the Sioux Central volleyball team, making it one of the favorites for a Northwest Conference title.
Among the returnees is six-footer hitting standout Stef Madsen. Already recruited by several colleges as a sophomore, Madsen finished with 243 kills last year and added 144 digs, 84 blocks and 67 ace serves.
Also expected to pick up starting roles are junior setter Samantha Halverson, senior back row player Nicole Scheiber, sophomore setter Briana Scharn, back row player Molly McCabe and outside hitter Jen Haraldson.
"Experience is a big key for us," said Sioux Central volleyball coach Sue Mattson. "These girls have such a good attitude and want to win. This year's bench will be much deeper, and we are hitting harder and have more girls who can hit well. Our setters are strong and serving will be another strongpoint."
The Lady Rebels had no shortage of strongpoints last year, when they finished 7-1 in the Northwest Conference and 15-8 overall. They went 40-26 in games overall.
This season, Sioux Central will be combined with Albert City-Truesdale, something coach Mattson is pleased with.
"We're pleased to have Albert City-Truesdale join us," she said. "We're getting some fantastic girls with good attitudes who listen well. They will be a strong asset to the team."
As for the returning starters, Haraldson, now a senior, had 134 digs in 2003 with 95 percent serving. Scheiber, also a senior, added 146 digs while as a sophomore last season, Chelsea Winterboer added 89 kills. Also, at setter last year, Briana Scharn, now a sophomore, finished with 160 set assists and added 59 ace serves.
Other returning letterwinners include junior Tawnee Rebhuhn, senior Sarah Demers, senior Molly McCabe, junior Brooke Loving, junior Mandy Richter, junior Brittany Lullman and Bryn Anderson.
Coach Mattson added that Lullman and Loving are both strong hitters while McCabe is one of the team's better servers and overall passers.
Mattson says the race for the Northwest Conference title is "up for grabs" this season.
"We should finish towards the top of the conference," she said. "Of course, we'd like to win the title."