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Hopkins coach Vicki Swenson gave instructions during the first day of Hopkins High volley ball practice , Monday Aug 12 ,2013 in Hopkins, MN. ] JERRY HOLT • jerry.holt@startribune.com

Monday marked the beginning of one of the best parts of Vicki Swenson’s coaching life and also one of the worst.

Starting her 19th season as the volleyball coach at Hopkins, Swenson stood inside Hopkins’ Lindbergh Center among more than 80 hopefuls, the biggest first-day turnout in her tenure. “I really look forward to this,” she said. “Since I was 14 years old, this is what you do in August.”

Swenson admitted to being a little awed by the number of girls trying out, however.

“We used to have to bring players up to fill out teams,” she said. “But our youth programs have been doing a great job. I made 72 copies of our preseason form and I ran out. I had to go make a dozen more.”

Clearly things are looking up for the Royals and it’s not just about quantity. Last fall Hopkins came within one match of its first state tournament berth since 2007. The Royals return junior Samantha Seliger Swenson (Vicki’s daughter), who is considered one of the top setters in the nation and has considerable international experience.

“We are so lucky to have her,” Vicki Swenson said. “She has so much experience and so much knowledge, it’s like having a coach on the court. And she loves high school volleyball. She bleeds Royals blue.”

Hopkins suffered significant losses to graduation, but in addition to the return of two-year starters Seliger Swenson and junior hitter Ingrid Werner, the team will get a much-needed boost from incoming freshman Jasmyn Martin, a talented 6-foot-3 outside hitter who transferred from Bloomington Kennedy.

“I’m so excited to get to play with her,” Seliger Swenson said. “She’s amazing.”

But few things come without a price. The downside of Hopkins’ large turnout is that cuts will have to be made. Vicki Seliger said that delivering the bad news is probably hardest part of her job.

“It can be brutal,” Swenson said. “But I think most kids understand after a few days. They move on to other things. It’s all about what type of experience they can have. But, no, it’s not fun.”

JIM PAULSEN

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