High school volleyball will undergo its second major rule change in two seasons.
Last year, rally scoring, in which a team can score when it's on offense or defense, was introduced and was an overwhelming success.
This season, the libero, or defensive specialist position, will be in effect. Minnesota is one of nine states in the National Association of High School Federations that will experiment with the position.
The libero will be considered a replacement, rather than a substitute, and won't count against a team's 18 permissible substitutions. The libero will be restricted to playing in the back row.
Liberos will not be allowed to attack anywhere above the net, can't serve or attempt to block and can't set for an attack. They will wear a uniform that contrasts in color to the rest of their team.
31-at St. Cloud Apollo 7:30 p.m.
2-at Willmar 7:30 p.m.
9-at Sartell 7:30 p.m.
11- at Buffalo Inv. 9 a.m.
13-LITTLE FALLS 7:30 p.m.
16-ST. CLOUD TECH 7:30 p.m.
21-at Rocori 7:30 p.m.
23-at Sauk Rapids 7:30 p.m.
30-ST. CLOUD APOLLO 7:30 p.m.
2-at Virginia Inv. 10 a.m.
5-WILLMAR 7:30 p.m.
7-BEMIDJI 7:30 p.m.
9-at Cretin-Derham Hall Inv. TBA
12-SARTELL 7:30 p.m.
14-at Little Falls 7:30 p.m.
19-at St. Cloud Tech 7:30 p.m.
25-ALEXANDRIA 7:30 p.m.
Head coach -- Lori Dean, 15th year (third at Brainerd, 12 at Northside Christian School, St. Petersburg, Fla.)
Brainerd record --36-20 (.643)
2003 finish -- 10-4 CLC, 19-9 overall
Returning players -- Chelsey Weiss, Joetta Johnson.
Assistant coaches -- Carla Stall, Paula Rossum.
Teams can alternate who the libero is and may use it in one game and not the next.
"It's something we're not planning to use to begin with," Brainerd Warriors coach Lori Dean said, "because we're still trying to identify who it might be. It's been in Junior Olympic programs for a while so players and coaches are familiar with it more so than the officials. It's wonderful if you have a kid who can eat up every ball on the floor."
Brainerd returns just two players from last season's squad that went 10-4 in conference play, 19-9 overall. Senior Chelsey Weiss will be the setter and junior Joetta Johnson will be an outside hitter.
Last year, Weiss had 22 digs, 2 aces and 11 assists.
"Chelsey is an outstanding leader," Dean said, "and I think she embraces that role. She gets to everything, she's an incredible hustler. She's also a vocal person on the court. I can see the team looking to her for leadership. I've seen her confidence grow because she has a year under her belt."
Johnson had eight digs, one ace and one kill primarily in the back row last year.
"I can see that being her responsibility again," Dean said. "She's another energy player. She's very vocal, very enthusiastic. She gets to the ball and has a desire to dig up everything."
Among many new players this fall, Dean has been impressed with Mandy Ramey, a 5-foot-8 senior middle hitter.
"Mandy's kind of the heartbeat of the team as far as emotionally, as far as the passion she plays with," Dean said. "I can see Mandy carrying that role quite a bit. She's a good leader."
Junior outside hitter Hannah Fossum's play has impressed Dean.
"Hannah's a very skilled player," Dean said. "She's been on the junior varsity for the past two years and we're looking forward to her playing on the varsity. She could be a standout in the outside position. This is her sport. She puts everything into it, and you can see that."
Dean also has been impressed with the play of junior middle hitter Paige Olson.
"I feel like Paige can dominate the middle position in the conference," Dean said. "She's really strong, really quick. She's quick at absorbing information."
Although Brainerd will have nine new varsity players, Dean believes the group is connecting with each other, is energetic and played in the offseason.
"There seems to be a lot of heart and desire on this team," she said. "They maybe don't have court experience at the varsity level. You can see the energy and passion taking over and that won't make that an issue.
"I do think they've logged a lot of minutes as far as action goes, it just isn't at this level yet. They have a hunger for it. Coming up here and being excited about being here, that's huge."
Senior -- Chelsey Weiss (5-5, setter)
Junior -- Joetta Johnson (5-3, outside hitter
Seniors -- Liz Ellens (5-8, OH), Carly Hegstrom (5-6, OH), Mandy Ramey (5-8, MH)
Juniors -- Kylie Abrahamson (5-11, MH), Hannah Fossum (5-8, OH), Niki Gorvin (5-7, setter), Jennifer Niklaus (5-8 setter), Paige Olson (5-10, MH), Kelsey Rassatt (5-6 OH).
Mike Bialka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.