Last season, the West Fargo Sheyenne volleyball team achieved something that the program never previously had — make the North Dakota state tournament.
The Mustangs managed a 25-12 overall record last season, claiming fifth place at state. Sheyenne head volleyball coach Leah Newton said she has a squad eager to sustain last year's success.
"I think it's exciting for our program that we experienced that last year, and we have quite a few girls that were able to take advantage of that opportunity and they're pretty hungry this year," Newton said. "I think they're bringing back that attitude and that work ethic that they know will help give us our best chance to get back there."
The Mustangs will be looking toward new on-court leadership this season. The team graduated six contributing seniors last year — Alexis Hoffner, Mya Lambert, Katelyn Galde, Cady Borchardt, first-team all-state hitter/middle blocker Olivia Dobrinz and second-team setter Brooke Prochaska.
"It's tough," Newton said. "It's tough when you graduate that many seniors and you're asking a lot of kids to step in and fill some pretty significant roles from last year. The exciting thing I think for us, is we have a lot of athletic girls in our gym and I think their style of play will be a little bit different."
Senior outside hitter/setter McKenzie Newton, senior middle blocker/outside hitter Ellie Such, senior defensive specialist Nadia Kranz and junior outside hitter/middle blocker Jadyn Feist highlight Sheyenne's key returners.
McKenzie Newton and Feist are preparing to step up as leaders of the team in wake up last year's departures.
"I've been here for a few years now and I've just learned from (last year's seniors)," McKenzie Newton said. "I think we're just gonna go in with a scrappy mentality again and we can all do it together."
McKenzie Newton added that she's been working on being louder and more vocal with her teammates and getting everybody in the gym and lifting in the weight room this summer as she steps into her bigger role.
Feist doubled down on the importance of the group to work together.
"Well, hopefully, just being part of the team," Feist said of what she will bring to the table as a leader. "I want to communicate more and just work more as a team just like everybody else."
Despite making the state tournament last season, Leah Newton, McKenzie Newton and Feist each said the approach to this season is just like any other. What will make it a success?
"Going to state again," Feist said.
Leah Newton likes this season's tight-knit group as it tries to reach those expectations.
"I think my favorite thing about the team this year is we really have a lot of team-first girls," she said. "The mentality is awesome and they get a long really well. It's fun."
The Mustangs open the season Friday, Aug. 30, against Bismarck Legacy at the Bismarck Public Schools East-West Volleyball Invite.