Will Tuesday be the day 2020 All-State hitter Ellie Sieling returns to the Bloomington Jefferson lineup?
Sieling, the Jaguars' senior outside hitter, sprained an ankle early in the second set of a loss to New Prague on Sept. 14 and has missed the past 12 games. Her absence came on the heels of an injury that sidelined senior setter Olivia Opstad for several games. The loss of the two key players has damaged the regular season of a team that started with high expectations and was ranked as high as No. 2 in the Class 4A coaches poll.
Opstad has returned to the lineup. Jefferson coach Crystal Dohlman said Sieling is nearing a return to play and her status is being evaluated on a daily basis. Dohlman said she thought Sieling was ready to play last week but had a setback in her recovery. Dohlman said she expects Sieling to be ready for the postseason.
There is still time for the Jaguars (12-8, 6-1 Metro West) to salvage their preseason dreams. A victory over Chaska (14-6, 6-0), ranked fifth in the Oct. 3 Class 4A coaches' poll, would put the teams in a tie atop the Metro West Conference standings and give the Jaguars a needed boost in confidence.
With Sieling, who received plenty of attention in the preseason discussions of Miss Volleyball candidates, out of the lineup, the Jaguars have gone 6-6. They were 6-2 entering the game against New Prague.
Despite missing more than half of the team's games, Sieling still ranks among the team's leaders. She's third in kills (99) and fourth in digs (103).
Her sister, hitter Cassie Sieling, another 2020 all-state selection, has held up her end of the leadership role. She leads the Jaguars with 181 digs and 146 kills. Opstad's absence gave underclassman Emma Olson more experience than she would normally have gotten, and she's now second on the team in assists with 147.
Chaska, led by senior Mallory Heyer and juniors Avery Rosenberg and Ella Christ, has remained healthy and in the middle of the Class 4A rankings all season. The Hawks' losses have come against some the state's best, including twice to No. 1-4A Wayzata, No. 2-4A Eagan and No. 1-3A Marshall.