Two sprained ankles, a sore knee, sinus problems ... the list goes on, but so does Cortney Branstner.
Whatever the ailment, Branstner will play through the pain and discomfort to help the Verndale Pirates volleyball team to victory.
"Usually at the beginning of the season I sprain my ankle or something," said Branstner. "This year I twisted my ankles and my knees are really bad. I don't know what is wrong. I have to play, though. They don't bother me."
They have not bothered her play, either. On the year the senior has 218 digs, 38 blocks, 17 ace serves, nine set assists and 155 kills. She's serving at 90 percent and attacking at 90 percent.
"I love hitting," said Branstner. "When I get a set I don't know if I think. I just hit it and hope I get a kill."
At 5-foot-7, Branstner isn't the area's tallest outside hitter. A good vertical jump and solid athleticism often have Branstner in the proper position. A weightlifting regimen of one hour a day also has helped Branstner overcome her "short comings."
Position: Outside hitter
Key stat: Had 21 kills, 10 digs and five blocks in two matches.
Verndale head coach Kelly Youngbauer believes Branstner is the most underrated player in the Park Region Conference. The Verndale coach has nominated Branstner for all-conference honors the last two years to no avail.
With continued improvement in her hitting and the growth of Branstner's confidence, that should change this year.
"She has an all-around ability," said Youngbauer. "I feel comfortable putting her just about anywhere. She could probably set. She's never done it before, but the way she plays and practices she could learn it quick. She is very dedicated to the sport."
Youngbauer said Branstner is one of the team's better passers. That's why she brought her up as a sophomore. She's also a good blocker, but doesn't get as many opportunities to showcase her skills. As the strong-side hitter, Branstner is opposite the opponent's weak-side hitter.
She did finish with three blocks, 12 kills, seven digs and one ace serve in a 3-1 victory over Swanville Oct. 11. In a 3-0 loss to Bertha-Hewitt Oct. 13, Branstner had 10 digs, nine kills, two blocks and one set assist.
"It doesn't matter where the set is she can adapt and still hit it as hard as she can," said Youngbauer. "She has been hitting harder and harder. She can cross over or hit it down the line. She can place it wherever she wants it."
Other notable performances:
Tennis - Betsy Wehseler and Farrah Steinke, Crosby-Ironton, won the South Subsection 7, Class 1A doubles title.
Kayla Lenz, Pequot Lakes, finished second in the South Subsection 7, Class 1A singles tournament.
Volleyball - Katie Kimman, Pierz, had 22 kills and seven digs against Brainerd.
Carissa Johnson, Pequot Lakes, had 15 kills and 15 digs against Walker-Hackensack-Akeley.
JEREMY MILLSOP can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.
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