Thirty-two banners hang in the Spring Valley Middle/High School, recognizing the accomplishments of Cardinal athletes. However, only five of those banners represent the achievements of girls’ teams.
The Cardinals volleyball team is aware of the disproportionate levels of success between male and female teams in Spring Valley and made strides to diminish the discrepancy during the 2018 season under the direction of Kelli Schlegel.
Schlegel led the Cardinals to a 13-13 season and a third-place finish in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference after taking two seasons off from coaching.
“Coming back and watching those girls from when I knew them in middle school and at the lower levels, it’s just fun to see,” Schlegel said.
For Schlegel, getting girls to come out for various sports is what it’s all about.
“The thing that we like to push, especially as a smaller school like Spring Valley, is that athletes need to play,” Schlegel said. “They need to play basketball, they need to run track, they need to play softball, they need to do that. It’s just good to see people giving that extra effort to be better, because why not? It’s only going to help your other teammates in every sport.”
The Cardinals welcomed 28 players to the first week of practice and are poised to have a C, JV and varsity team this season, which will benefit the long term picture of the volleyball program. But beyond growing the program, Schlegel wants to see her team add consistency to its agenda. The Cardinals’ longest winning streak lasted for three games last season and came before September.
“It’s definitely going to be coming together as a team and continuing with consistency,” Schlegel said when asked what it will take for her team to improve from a .500 season. “We have some great athletes; we have some girls with experience, but we do have some more holes to fill.”
The Cardinals graduated four seniors last season, including libero Quinn Anderson who led the Cardinals in digs last season.
“(Anderson) was a big leader on the floor and had a great attitude,” Schlegel said. “Someone coming in and stepping up and taking on her position — that’s going to take next week and just throwing people in and seeing how they do live. It’s different from practice to an actual game to see who’s going to buckle and who’s going to step up.”
The Cardinals will have experience in nearly every other position, however. The Cardinals return junior setter Jasmine Ortner who played her first season of varsity volleyball in 2018.
“With a year under her belt, hopefully, this is going to be her year to shine,” Schlegel said of her junior setter. “She’s a good athlete all the way around, she can play defense, she can even hit when she wants to. But just the confidence level she’s got, you can definitely see a change from last year.”
Schlegel has also noticed a rise in confidence and expectations from her senior, All-Conference hitters — Lexi Johansen and Mataya Kado.
“They have a different attitude already this season,” Schlegel said. “You can tell that they’re hungry for, ‘This is my last year; this is the time to get it done. If we don’t get it now, it’s gone.’ They’re definitely hungry for improving and working hard and getting to the top of the conference again.”
Hanging a DSC Conference championship banner may be out of the question this season for the Cardinals who’ll be challenged by the Colfax Vikings — the defending, 25-6 DSC champs who return all but two players from last season. But the Cardinals have experienced what it takes to be successful — take last year’s girls’ basketball playoff win, for example — and are determined to share those moments of achievement with as many of their teammates as possible.
"It shows them what it takes,” Schlegel said. “It takes everyone putting in their two cents in order to be successful.”