North hopes to continue winning tradition with experienced returnees

The North Polars volleyball forces — which went 10-0 and won the title in the Metro East Conference a year ago — are looking to take one more giant step toward gaining a berth in the state tournament.

A year ago the Polars lost a "heartbreaker" in the finals of the Section 4 Class 3A playoffs when they were downed by the Roseville Raiders.

Heading into the 2015 season, head coach Steve Anderson is feeling optimistic. "We have a solid group of returnees from last year. This group is hungry to continue the tradition of fundamentally sound volleyball.

He said that during practices, "the players have really come together as a team and work very well together."

"If we have any weakness it might well be 'buying into a new team identity.' This group will have to accept new leadership and capitalize on all the strengths of this year's team."

Leading North this season will be a trio of senior captains — Ryan Crotty, Anna Kemper and Sarah Mullen.

Crotty is an outside hitter, while Kemper and Mullen will fill in as middle hitters.

Three other seniors will add to the strengths of the Polars' lineup. They are defensive specialists Brianna Hartman, Destini Thao and Tida Phitsanoukanh .

Depth to the North squad will come from juniors Megan Rubbelke, a setter, and Rachel Tschida, a right-side hitter.

Sophomores on the roster are Sophie Cave, Katie Krenz and Charisma Herr (DS), along with freshman Selena Rodriguez.

Anderson said possible challengers to North's bid to claim the MEC title would be Simley and perennial power Hill-Murray.

Assistant coaches this season will be Mike Alexander, Stephanie Blanda, Kelly Gibb, Dave Hobbs and Linda Johnson.

North has already posted a couple of non-conference wins this season over Elk River and Wayzata.

The remaining matches are: Sept. 17 Henry Sibley at North; Sept. 22 at Hastings; Sept. 24 at Tartan; Sept. 29 Hill-Murray at North; Oct. 1 Simley at North; Oct. 3 12-team invitational at Blaine; Oct. 6 Mahtomedi at North; Oct. 10 9 a.m. 8-team invitational at Alexandria; Oct. 13 Tartan at North; Oct. 20 at Hill-Murray;  and Oct. 22 at Cambridge-Isanti.

Except for the invitationals, the matches start at 7 p.m.

The Section 4 Class 3A playoffs begin Oct. 27 and 29, at the team with the highest seed and conclude Nov. 3 and 5, with play at Washington High School in St. Paul.

Wally Wakefield can be reached at or at 651-748-7826.


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