To start off with, it may be prudent to get one lingering thought out of the way. Does this year's Packer volleyball team have what it takes to go undefeated during the conference regular season for the third year in a row?
After the graduation of seven seniors, does anyone really expect West Fargo to have that kind of success?
"This is a completely different group of kids," said Packer coach Paula Pierson. "My goal with them isn't to put pressure on them that we want to go undefeated in the EDC. That's going to be a tall order, especially early in the season. What we're hoping is as a group by post season that we finish in the top four in the EDC and we get our chance at state."
That may be a more realistic goal than continuing the streak given that this year's team doesn't have anyone named Jones, Selisker, Denne, Gust or Hummel on it. The team does, however, have some talent and returning experience.
"It's rare to have seven seniors with such talent and passion for the game. They were just a phenomenal group," said Pierson. "I think the biggest thing that's missing from last year is that consistency and experience. (With) our current group we're very pleased. They're athletic and very anxious to get out there and prove themselves."
Pierson said it's not nearly far enough into the season for her to know where everyone is going to play or what kind of system the Packers will run on the court.
What is known at this point in the preseason is that West Fargo has three seniors that will get a shot at becoming regular players, including Jenna Green, Courtney Voeller and Kristin Koutz, the only one of the three with no varsity experience.
Other top players may include juniors Katelyn Holland, Jill Gustafson and Carissa Becher and sophomores Allison Barta and Hannah Schnepf. The aforementioned eight players made the trip to Barnesville for a preseason scrimmage last weekend.
Juniors that played at Central Cass but could get varsity time this season include Kristin Kautz, Katie Anderson, and Danielle Nelson.
Despite all the new faces, Holland, a varsity player last year, said the EDC unbeaten streak still means something.
"There is some pressure, but I think a lot of us are working our hardest to see how far we can make it down the road," she said. "Hopefully we can make it to state this year too. We should be pretty good this year. A lot of other teams have lost people too, so we'll see."
Pierson said she plans to use about the first third of the season to evaluate her players and how she wants them to play.
"I'm not 100 percent that the six-two is the best option for us," said Pierson. "We may end up going five-one. We need time to evaluate everything, but so far we're really pleased with the kids."
The coach said Grand Forks Red River should be one of the top teams in the conference, along with all three Fargo teams.
Holland said she's already seeing improvement in practices this early in the season.
"Practices are going good. They are slowly getting more fast paced," she said. "Drills are going a lot better and faster. It's going good. Everybody has talent."
The Packers kick off their season with seven three-game matches in the Bismarck Tournament tomorrow and Saturday.