PIERZ -- Because of graduation, this was going to be a rebuilding year for head coach Sheryl Wesenberg and the Pierz Pioneers volleyball team.
But they didn't have to look far to find a new setter for the graduated Katie Bell.
Bell's sister, Tracy Bell, is the Pioneers' new setter, and against Kimball the junior led her team to a 3-2 victory and Wesenberg's 100th win.
Bell's statistics looked similar to her sister Katie's when she played for the Pioneers last year.
Tracy Bell was 27-30 serving with seven aces. She also was 24-24 hitting with six kills and 23 digs. The most important statistic for Bell was setting, which in Pierz is synonymous with the Bell name. She was 147-for-149 on setting attempts with 40 set assists.
"I knew that Tracy was going to be ready to replace Katie," said Wesenberg. "We started out with a 6-2 formation because we had a lot of setters and we wanted to see what we had. But with a cooperative effort from everyone we're now running a 5-1 offense and it's working out well."
Katie Bell is now the setter for the Central Lakes College Raiders, so Tracy was pretty much groomed to take over for her sister.
"Tracy doesn't have the same chemistry of girls that Katie had," said Wesenberg. "Katie had the opportunity to work with a unit since grade school. She had eight girls constantly together working as a unit.
"Tracy hasn't had that opportunity because of the number of girls not playing together. We have a couple sophomores, a couple juniors and a couple of seniors. Last year they were mainly all seniors.
"The athleticism is there," Wesenberg added. "If you haven't played together you hesitate. She's young and it will come. We've been in every single match."
So far this year Bell's setting has helped the Pioneers to a 3-1 Central Minnesota Conference record and 7-5 overall. Hardly rebuilding numbers, but that has to do with the fast development of Bell.
"You hate to say we're rebuilding," Wesenberg said. "Actually we could be 9-3, that's how close we've been. We've had some good, tough, close games.
"I am surprised. I was happy because I think we were ahead of schedule. We have a strong desire to do well because of our tradition."
The communication and understanding between setter and hitter has to be nearly perfect, and with a new team it's rare to find that connection fast enough to have a good start to the season. The Pioneers were lucky to have a legacy at the setter position.
"Tracy's mental attitude is fantastic," said Wesenberg. "She always is under the gun. She's the quarterback of the team.
"She puts the pressure on herself. If you keep the pressure on yourself, you're not making your teammates take the blame. Her players are working hard for her.
"She is fun to work with. They have good communication. They keep an upbeat tempo. They're getting along pretty good."
Other notable performances:
Tennis -- Ashley Meschke of Pequot Lakes improved her record to 18-4 with a win over Catherine Ceulemans of Aitkin 6-2, 6-0 and Perham's Molly Paulson 6-3, 6-0. Her sister, Valerie Meschke, improved her record to 18-4 with a win over Amy Lammers of Aitkin 6-1, 6-1 and Perham's Michelle Wien 6-1, 6-2.
W-DC's Joneen Sorenson is now 12-3 on the season with wins over Kalie Larson of Park Rapids 6-1, 6-2 and Jessica Bernu of New York Mills 6-1, 6-1.
Volleyball -- Jackie Stoll of Pillager had 11 kills, two blocks and one ace in a loss to Isle. She was 7-9 serving with an ace, nine kills and three blocks in a loss to Sebeka.
Pequot's Joan Ebnet was 8-9 serving with 14 kills, 17 digs and two blocks in a win over Menahga.
Michelle Honek had nine kills, five ace tips and was 15-for-16 serving with one ace serve as the Staples-Motley Cardinals beat Bertha-Hewitt 3-1.
Cross country -- W-DC's Kourtney Anderson won the St. John's Prep Invitational with a time of 14:32.
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