Seniors have South poised for title run

As her teammates were batting volleyballs to each other in the Fargo South High School gymnasium over the noon hour Wednesday, Cynthia Qualey was quizzed.

As her teammates were batting volleyballs to each other in the Fargo South High School gymnasium over the noon hour Wednesday, Cynthia Qualey was quizzed.

"When's the last time South won a state volleyball championship?" she was asked.

Qualey scanned the banners hanging on the west wall.

"1997," she quickly answered.

That was the year Qualey and four other seniors began to take volleyball seriously as seventh graders. That was the first year Kristin Johnson was the head coach at South.


A lot has happened since then. Qualey, Becky Anderson, Laura Stroup, Kim Krueger and Micaela Kruckenberg have matured into senior leaders for this year's 28-2 South team that is considered one of the favorites -- if not the favorite -- to win this week's North Dakota Class A state tournament in Minot.

Even Johnson admits she has matured -- learning how to coach a team dealing with the 'favorite' label.

"Teams really gun for you," Johnson said. "This has been a learning experience for me also. I really didn't know how these girls would react."

Jumping out to a 16-0 start, in which they lost only six games, the Bruins became the team to beat. That's when Moorhead did just that, beating South 3-1. Less than two weeks later, Grand Forks Red River beat South 3-0.

"If anything, we learned that we have to play hard every match," said Anderson, a third-year starter.

"It showed us that we have to keep talking and can't get down when we start losing," said Qualey, a second-year starter. "We learned that we have to keep our energy and enthusiasm up at all times."

That's something that hasn't been a problem for Qualey, according to Johnson. The Bruin coach describes the 5-foot-9 Qualey as the team's 'steady Eddie' who never seems to have a bad day.

An All-Eastern Dakota Conference pick, Qualey leads the team in digs (340), ranks second in service aces (67) and third in kills (246).


"She's a role model for anyone," Johnson said.

For the third straight year, the 5-10 Anderson is South's leader in kills (296) and blocks (90). The three-time All-EDC pick and one-time all-stater enters the state tournament with 935 career kills.

"She has that experience and poise for tournament time," Johnson said.

Stroup, another All-EDC selection, has 259 kills "hitting the ball hard for us," Johnson said. She has also learned to play the back row this year, as evidenced by her 154 digs.

The two other seniors are Kim Krueger and Micaela Kruckenberg, both willing to accept their roles as backrow, defensive specialists.

"Both of them have embraced that role," Johnson said.

With junior blockers Mel Hageman and Christin Kingsley and All-EDC junior setter Shanna Kvam, South has what Anderson calls "a lot more well-rounded team" than the previous three years.

"We have a lot more chemistry this year," Qualey said.


And smarts. Combined, the five seniors have a grade point average of 3.8. They've learned a lot since their seventh-grade year in 1997 -- especially how to deal with the role as favorite.

"They know if they decide to take the night off and play at a mediocre level, we'll get beat," Johnson said.

That isn't going to happen in Minot this week, according to Anderson.

"This is our last shot," she said. "We don't want to come back from this tournament with any regrets."

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549

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