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CourtneyVoeller returns the ball as West Fargo teammate Hannah Schnepf watches during Thursday's game against Grand Forks Red River.

Packer volleyball team no longer EDC favorite

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Not being the best team in the EDC may actually benefit the West Fargo volleyball team this season.

The Packers have been so good for so long in recent years, and with that success has come the pressure to keep it up. The team's league winning streak that lasted more than two seasons came to an end earlier this month. With it, may have gone some unreasonable expectations and some of that pressure.

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"I think some people think that because we lost so many seniors last year that we're not going to be good, so there's not that much pressure on us. They under-rate us so much," said senior Courtney Voeller.

West Fargo is experiencing what it's like to actually be the underdog, like when the Packers played and lost to Grand Forks Red River last week. It wasn't surprising that the top-ranked Roughriders beat the Packers in three games.

Packers assistant coach Mackenzie Odden said players are still learning to play with each other after the graduation of so much talent from last year's team.

"The girls are learning to come together and jelling as a group. Individually they are very talented, but coming together as a team is really what our focus is right now," said Odden.

The Packers looked good early on against Grand Forks Red River but faded as the match wore on.

"We were back on our heels and we weren't' playing well as a team. That's what we were lacking," said Odden. "Things got away from us."

The team is working on its defense - all part of an effort to contain other teams to give the Packers a chance to stay in the game. It all worked well early last week with a sweep of Wahpeton. West Fargo, 9-8 overall, is in fifth place in the EDC with a 2-2 record.

As the conference season gets into full swing, the Packers will need a strong defense to beat conference contenders. The Packers have yet to beat a conference opponent ahead of them in the standings.

Odden said junior Katelyn Holland and, especially senior Courtney Voeller, are expected to provide much of the team's defense. Voeller led West Fargo in kills and digs in the win over the Huskies.

"Courtney has really done a good job for us. She is that defensive leader on our team," said Odden."

Voeller said the team is starting to look at least a little more like the Packers of the past few years as the season continues.

"We're getting better as time goes on. It's starting to come back," she said.

"In the beginning of the year we were all kind of going our own separate ways, but as we play harder teams we're learning we need to work together to make it further," said Holland. "We have to put all our individual skills together."

Meanwhile, the coaching staff has a plan for team improvement.

"Defensively there's going to be some tougher drills that we're going to put into place (in practice)," said Odden.

Results from Tuesday's match against first place Fargo Shanley were not available before press time. The Packers play at third place Fargo North, 4-2 in the EDC, today.

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