Carollie Christenson and four other returning starters will try to push the Pine River-Backus Tiger volleyball team past the Section 7, Class 2A finals.
Last year, the Tigers were runners-up and finished 20-9 overall and 7-1 in the Park Region Conference.
They'll switch to the Mid-State Conference this year and should compete for the title.
"We should be competitive with the Mid-State Conference teams," said head coach Tom Lupella. "Detroit Lakes will be tough. We should also be competitive in Section 7, Class 2A."
Pine River-Backus Tigers
Football coach -- Randy Schwegel, 23rd year
Career record at PR-B -- 103-77
2001 record -- 8-2 overall, 6-0 in North Star Conference
Assistant coaches -- Tom Demars, Nate Merseth, Brent Godfrey, Rich Bean, Jim Riesse
Volleyball coach -- Tom Lupella, 17th year
Career record at PR-B -- 128-36
2001 record -- 7-1 in Park Region Conference, 20-9 overall
Assistant coaches -- Tina Bach, Tammi Amberg
Boys' cross country coach -- Greg Ehlert, 3rd year
Girls' cross country coach -- Jim Machacek, 33rd year
Christenson, a senior setter, is back to lead the Tigers. Last year, she was second in the area with 450 set assists. She had a serving percentage of 90 with 23 aces and 136 digs.
She'll be flanked by senior outside hitter Jackie Farnam, sophomore middle hitter Chelsa Schwegel, senior utility Steph Robinson and senior back-row specialist Christa Marvin.
The Tigers also bring back three letterwinners. Senior Lauren Skarbonkiewicz (outside hitter), freshman Erin Cusac (middle hitter) and junior Amanda Perkins (outside hitter).
Additional varsity candidates:
Seniors -- Lacie Brogle (utility), Katja Schlemmbach (middle hitter); Juniors -- Amber Bauman (outside hitter), Anna Wetrosky (outside hitter), Sheri Hoefs (middle hitter); Sophomores -- Lara Marvin (setter), Erica Richards (middle hitter).
The Pine River-Backus Tigers won their third straight North Star Conference title and finished 8-2 overall last year.
They hope to continue their success despite graduating many of the key characters of last year's team.
"Lake of the Woods and Walker-Hackensack-Akeley look like the teams to beat in the conference," said head coach Randy Schwegel. "Don't forget about Pequot Lakes either."
Schwegel starts his 23rd year as head coach. He's amassed a 103-77 record in that span.
"We have some big holes to fill because of graduation," Schwegel said. "We can not have any injuries if we are going to be competitive. We should be OK but we need some people to step in and fill the big holes left by the graduates."
The Tigers have six returning starters.
Senior guard Phil Shequen and Nate Blanchard will lead young offensive and defensive lines. Duane Anderson (T-DE), Joe Poferl (OL-DL), Eric Swenson (T-LB) and Jim Forrey are leading candidates to round out the offensive line.
Gary Anderson (TE-LB), Joel Burns (WR-DB), Joe Whittemore (RB-DB) and Luke Grindahl (RB-LB) will fill some holes at the skill positions.
Ryan Laposky will be the most watched as he replaces Nick Keefe, the starting quarterback the last two years.
Laposky, a senior, has seen a lot of playing time, mainly late in the game, however. His development will be key.
PR-B will also need Doug Hamilton (WR-DE) and Nathan Winn (FB-LB) to step up.
Additional varsity candidates:
Juniors -- Travis Kelly (WR-DB), Tyler Johnson (TE-DE), Troy Sewall (T-T), Steve Gearey (C-T).
Pine River-Backus boys' and girls' cross country teams are anticipating good seasons.
The boys' team returns seven letterwinners and the girls' squad returns 10 letterwinners.
For the boys, Travis Bristow will lead the charge. Bristow just missed advancing to the Class 1A state tournament last year.
Troy Switajewski, Sean Collins, Steven Wheeler, O.J. Johnson, Cory Bradow and Jordan Zaffke round out the boys' roster.
Brittany Johnson and Katie Lupella will lead the girls' team.
Beth Pryor, Katie Anderson, Brenna Sater, Morgan Duff, Audrey McCoy, Ashley Prososki, Mollie Hedberg and Emile Lemberg all return and will compete for the final four varsity roster spots.
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