West Fargo Sheyenne volleyball team off to best start in program history behind senior leadership
The Mustangs are 13-0 and eyeing their first Eastern Dakota Conference regular season championship and fifth consecutive Class A tournament appearance.
WEST FARGO — Look at the West Fargo Sheyenne volleyball team's record over the last few years and you may be hard pressed to believe that the Mustangs don't have an Eastern Dakota Conference regular season or tournament championship to their name.
The team is hoping this year will be different. No. 1-ranked Sheyenne is off to its best start in program history. The Mustangs are 13-0 and in sole possession of first place in the EDC standings with a 7-0 conference mark.
"It's been a great start," said head coach Leah Newton, who is in her ninth year of coaching the varsity team since its inception in 2014. "We've faced some really tough teams and some great competition. It's still really early in the season so I know we need to keep working hard, but it's been an amazing start for our girls and for our team."
The Mustangs have finished in the top three of the EDC standings the last four seasons, qualifying for the state tournament all four years.
The 13-0 mark is the team's best undefeated start since a 5-0 run to open the 2019 campaign. Of the Mustangs' 13 matches this season, six have been won in straight sets.
The key to Sheyenne's success? Skill at each position and chemistry up and down the roster.
"I think it's a combination of both," Newton said. "We have eight seniors on our team and we have a good crew returning from last year that have varsity experience and that had a taste of postseason play and going to state. I think they're really hungry to try and improve on our season from last year. They've been playing ball together a long time, they get along really well, they're very talented girls and they enjoy each other's company."
Senior outside hitters Reagan Bogenreif and Kailee Waasdorp are two returning Mustangs. Both received all-conference honors in 2021, Waasdorp was named to the Class A all-state second team and Bogenreif was named to the all-state tournament team.
The duo is joined by senior middle hitter Khloe Brown as team captains.
"We're relying on them to kind of fill in that leadership role," Newton said. "They each bring something a little bit different to our team in how they lead.
"Kailee Waasdorp is someone that I think has really stepped up her game all around. I'm really impressed with what she brings to the court and what she brings not just during games but at practice as well.
"So many of our girls are hard workers, but (Waasdorp) is a kid that is going to give it her all no matter what kind of drill we're doing or what position she's in. She'll step in and play a position she hasn't played before. She just really works hard and I think leading by example is such a big strength for her."
The makeup of the team consists of five other seniors: setter/defensive specialist Kennedy Colter, middle hitter Megan Johnson, setter Brooke Johnson, outside hitter Lexus Terhark and defensive specialist Kallie Dodds.
"They all contribute in different ways," Newton said. "So it's been really nice."
Winning is great and being unbeaten is even better. But the Mustangs won't let those accomplishments get in the way of continued improvement, especially with a month and a half remaining in the regular season.
"After every match we talk a little bit about what went well for us and what we did well and then what we can work on and improve," Newton said. "We're always trying to clean up our errors and we're working on consistency."
For example, Newton said the Mustangs can improve their passing and serving. They also take keys from opponents about what parts of their game need work.
"It's just working hard and continuing to get better," Newton said. "We know all of the teams are going to keep improving and so we have to stay hungry. While we're proud of how we started and the things we've done this year, we know that we can't be satisfied and that we have to keep going at it.
"It's a long season and we want to be at our peak and in the best shape and the best play that we can be at the end of the season when it gets time for postseason play."
The ultimate goal for Sheyenne? Get back to the state tournament for the fifth year in a row. From that point, the Mustangs hope to take that next step.
"We're really striving for that," Newton said. "We want to go back there. We want to not just get there, we want to do something while we're there. So that's our goal and we're just going to do everything we can to get ready for that and put our best foot forward to make that happen."
The Mustangs host Grand Forks Central (1-12, 1-5 EDC) on Tuesday, Sept. 20, with first serve set for 7 p.m.