GRAND RAPIDS — The Itasca Community College volleyball team has a local flavor this season.
That’s because six of the eight players on the Vikings’ roster – who are all freshmen – include athletes from local high schools. They include outside hitter Brianna Sutherland of Grand Rapids, and three Deer River High School graduates in right side hitter Claudia Burns, outside hitter Allison Rasley, and middle hitter Natalie Bakkedahl.
Two more local players are middle hitter Karley Hansen from Greenway and setter Libby Korpi of Nashwauk-Keewatin.
Completing the roster are two athletes from Roseville High School, right side hitter Shyanna Jones and libero Alyssa McDermott.
Leslie Reed, who is entering her 19th season as head coach of the Vikings, said ICC had an up-and-down 2018 season where there was disappointment early and fun later.
“Once we ended up with my Iron Seven that I had for most of the season, it was challenging but rewarding in the sense that we just kept the girls motivated and having fun with such a small group.”
Itasca will have no experienced players returning from last year for various reasons, leaving a team full of freshmen. Still, even with such a young and inexperienced team, Reed said she is optimistic that the Vikings will enjoy a solid season.
“I have kids on my team that came from good local programs so it is kind of refreshing having those girls on the floor,” Reed explained. “They know the game and they have good skills and that is nice. I only have eight players and the lineup is pretty easy to figure out when you only have eight. But I have a pretty solid group so I am hoping for no injuries and let’s see where we go with it.”
Reed said Sutherland didn’t play last year and added that the Grand Rapids native is an amazing athlete.
“She is possibly one of the best athletes I have ever coached – if not the best. I worked with her at camps when she was younger and she has amazing court sense, she is aggressive, she is a great leader and she knows the game pretty well,” Reed explained. “So, she is definitely a factor for us.”
ICC plays in the North Division and Reed said Central Lakes – perennially one of the top teams in the division – will be good again along with Northland. She said Mesabi and Hibbing also should be tough teams.
“We should be right there in the middle with the other teams in the division,” Reed said. “I think we can finish in the top four and make the playoffs. For that to happen, we need to stay healthy and we have to develop a better right side position. I am training two players that have never played it before so we are getting them acquainted with how the position is played and we hope to be able to get them to block and make that position solid.”
Assisting Reed in coaching are Emily Kessler and Emily Rothstein.
“This team is full of hard workers, and they seem to be jelling and having fun in practice so for me that’s a win,” Reed said. “There are no attitudes, no drama.
“We hope people come out and watch and support us. That would be wonderful for this good bunch of kids.”