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Digging deep

When Anna Tinkham was in grade school she played volleyball inside the house with her three older sisters, leaving the evidence behind for her mother, Sheryl.

Anna Tinkham

When Anna Tinkham was in grade school she played volleyball inside the house with her three older sisters, leaving the evidence behind for her mother, Sheryl.

Growing up on a farm near Fisher, Minn., Tinkham and her siblings played pepper in the family room next to a floor plant.

"She could always tell when we would be playing because there was a ton of leaves on the floor," said Anna, who started competing in Junior Olympic volleyball around sixth grade.

"If they were smart, they would have hurried up and cleaned them up," Sheryl said with a laugh.

Tinkham has since moved her game to bigger arenas, but her passion for volleyball still remains. Now a senior at Concordia, Tinkham holds school records for digs in a single season and career.

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"She's just an outstanding person," Concordia coach Tim Mosser said of his record-setting libero. "If you have a daughter, you want her to grow up like Anna Tinkham."

Rated No. 15 in this week's AVCA Division III poll, the Cobbers (20-3) play host to St. Benedict at 3 p.m. Saturday to close out the regular season.

Concordia has already earned a spot in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference playoffs, which start Tuesday.

"I cherish every game I'm on the court," Anna said. "It's going to be sad when it's over."

Mosser said Tinkham has excelled for three reasons - her high volleyball IQ, strong communication skills and tireless effort.

"She is the heart and soul of our team," he said. A fan of all things flavored grape, Big League Chew gum in particular, Tinkham's talents aren't limited to the volleyball court.

She has sung the national anthem before numerous Cobber home matches and other area sporting events like the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks and Amy Ruley's final game as head women's basketball coach at North Dakota State. Tinkham has also performed at weddings and funerals.

"Sometimes she gives me goosebumps," Cobbers senior middle hitter Abby Scheel said of Tinkham's national anthem singing.

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Other times, Scheel likes to poke fun at her friend when Tinkham performs prior to playing a match.

"I'll say like 'Wow, you're good,' " Scheel cracked. "We give her a hard time, but we enjoy it."

Tinkham has also taken on the role of team comedian.

On road trips, teammates gather around Tinkham in the back of the bus while she tells a joke or two.

"She'll say 'Joke time' and everyone comes back," said Scheel, who ranks third on the team with 1.87 kills per set.

"Bottom line, she is a performer," Sheryl said.

While Tinkham has piled up the stats with her on-court performance that is not what will stick out for Mosser when Tinkham has completed her playing career.

"Much more important is the mark she is going to leave on everybody's hearts when she leaves here," Mosser said. "That will leave a lasting impact on me. She exemplifies what it is to be a Concordia volleyball player."

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By the numbers

Below are the career statistics for Concordia senior libero Anna Tinkham, who is the school's career leader and single-season record holder in digs:

Year Aces Digs

2008 33 405

2007 44 601

2006 11 126

2005 9 37

Career 97 1,169

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson's blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com

Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.
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