Head coach Amy Johnson is starting her third season as the head of the Raider volleyball program. After a rough fall of 2017, Hastings made tremendous progress last year and looks to make another jump this season.
“The six seniors who are returning this year, this will be my third year coaching most of those girls, so really all they know of their varsity experience is me, so that definitely helps,” she said. “They’ve seen the continued progress every year, every year we’ve gotten better and better and better. We’re at the point right now where our confidence is pretty high and we have some pretty big goals ahead of us for this season.”
Hastings went 1-17 in 2017 but made a major jump to 10-16 in 2018, though they still struggled in Metro East Conference play with a 1-6 record. In sections they beat Cretin-Derham Hall on the road in five sets to advance to the quarterfinals before losing at East Ridge. This season their goal is to make a mark both in conference and sections.
“Top half of the conference for sure, I’d say we have a chance for even higher if everything kind of lines up and things fall into place, but for sure the top half of the conference is a goal for us,” Johnson said. “I would say to get at least one section (playoff) home game would be a goal for us as well. That all has a lot of things that can still play out and change, but I would say those are two big goals for us.”
The six seniors who are returning this year are Mallory Brake, Hailey Feikema, Emma Amundson, Kassidy Siedow, Reilly Johnson and Madison Dold.
“The heart of the team is returning, we had six seniors who graduated. So obviously there are some things that need to be replaced, removed or changed around a little bit,” Johnson said. “But the six seniors that are coming back are a strong six players, and the best part is they are different positions. A lot of times you’ll have six returners but three of them are setters or four of them are hitters. In this case we have a mixture of setters, hitters, defensive specialists, we have a player who can do whatever I ask her to do, we call her our utility player. So the six coming back are going to be able to fill a lot of the spots pretty consistently and with strong volleyball.”
Johnson described that group of seniors as athletic and able to really move and she said she plans on taking advantage of those characteristics with a fast-paced offense.
“We have a lot of different possibilities of where our lineup could go and do some things that are kind of unique. Something called a three-middle offense, instead of having two middles we have three middles,” she said. “We have the ability to move our hitters around in the front row, so that you may not have a certain person always playing middle, she may end up playing right for one or left for one. It moves our hitters around which keeps our offense kind of unique and keeps the other team guessing as to where the hitters are going to go, because our hitters have the ability to hit almost anywhere along the net.”
The schedule for the Raiders remains pretty much the same, though they do start off with a tough challenge right away in Woodbury, who is now in Hastings’ section replacing South St. Paul.
“Our section has only gotten stronger with the section realignment, so it will be a good test for us, first match of the season against a team that’s going to be strong in their own conference,” Johnson said. “So we’ll see what we can do against them, it will be a good test of where we’re at at the beginning of the season.”
That match against Woodbury to open the season is Monday, Aug. 26, in Hastings. Other dates to circle are at Simley they next day, home versus Hill-Murray on Sept. 5, at Park on Sept. 10 and ending the regular season at North St. Paul on Oct. 15. Hill-Murray won the Metro East in 2018 and the Polars were second.