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Blaine junior volleyball standout Rebecca Hawkins is worried less how her inexperienced Bengals start this season than how they finish.
Last season, a veteran Blaine team started 9-0 and kept on winning. The Bengals took a 29-1 record and the No. 2 seed into the Class 3A state tournament and finished third.
While determined to win as many matches as possible, Hawkins and the Bengals know a new season and new-look roster mean patience and persistence are vital.
“I don’t expect us to be right-off-the-bat amazing,” Hawkins said. “It’s going to take more work than it did in the past to get that chemistry.”
Hawkins, along with Brooke Christenson, Lydia Dimke, Jess Jorgensen and Taylor Morgan, make up the Bengals’ talented and experienced core group. Hawkins enjoyed a strong offseason, earning tournament most valuable player honors as the Northern Lights’ 16-2 team won the 16-year-old USA Division national championship.
Her older sisters also are highly skilled volleyball players. Elizabeth is a sophomore setter at St. Thomas and Katherine is a freshman defensive specialist at Colorado.
Hawkins spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about personal and team expectations for the upcoming volleyball season.
Q: How is the mood on the team different this season given the difference in experience between last year and this year?
A: We’re really excited about the number of new players this year. Last year we were kind of set with our lineup even during tryouts. We kind of knew who our players were going to be.
Q: Generally speaking, seniors set the tone for a team. But you’re a junior with a great deal of experience so what sort of influence do you have on this team?
A: I feel like being a leader on the court is really important no matter what your age is. You play a role. Even if you’re a freshman, you need to have some input. Even if you’re just shagging balls in practice or encouraging teammates — the little things make a huge difference.
Q: Last year’s team expected to do well right from the start and did. Is your outlook a bit different this year because you need more time to gel?
A: Yeah, we’re just a really new team. We don’t have quite the chemistry of last year’s team at this point because a lot of the players who just came in haven’t played with us returning players or even with each other. Hopefully by midseason we will have created that chemistry.
Q: Blaine ran a 6-2 formation last year and you were one of the setters. Will anything change in terms of your team’s formation or your role this year?
A: Most likely Lydia and I will still run a 6-2 because she is our dominant hitter most of the time.
Q: After the great offseason you had, I imagine your confidence coming in is really high.
A: Oh yeah. Last year being a sophomore I was a little bit intimidated. This year I feel like I will play a big role and I am excited about that. I think overall, we’re just excited to see what the outcome of the season will be and we’re really looking forward to working hard to be the best.
David La Vaque