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The voice of experience

Leslie Olson recalled the terrified look on the face of teammate Amy Stroup when Stroup was first inserted into a varsity volleyball match as a sophomore.

Amy Stroup

Leslie Olson recalled the terrified look on the face of teammate Amy Stroup when Stroup was first inserted into a varsity volleyball match as a sophomore.

"It was funny seeing her eyes when she got in," said Olson, now a senior along with Stroup. "They were big. She just looked terrified. Once she got going, she was fine."

Stroup laughed when asked about her initial varsity court time.

"I looked like I was about to cry," she said. "I was nervous. I didn't want to let anyone down."

Her varsity career has been anything but disappointing. Stroup and Olson have played key roles for South the last three seasons.

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The team placed fourth at the North Dakota Class A state tournament the previous two years. The Bruins play Williston at 8 p.m. today in the first round of the state tournament at Jamestown Civic Center.

A 5-foot-10 middle hitter who was named East Region senior athlete of the year, Stroup verbally committed to play at the University of North Dakota.

She ranks second on the South team in kills (246), blocks (71) and aces (64).

"We knew that Amy was going to be a special player for us," South coach Tonah Safranski said. "She is a very intense player. She won't back down from anyone."

Stroup is an explosive leaper at the net, making her an imposing threat as a hitter and blocker. Her athleticism also gives the Bruins a rare commodity, a middle hitter than can play in the back row.

Stroup is fourth on the team with 183 digs.

"You don't see many middles play all the way around, and she does that," Olson said.

"I want to kind of break the stereotype that tall girls can't play back row," Stroup said. "It's something I have always worked for as a goal."

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Stroup and Olson have worked through the South volleyball ranks together. When they were sophomores on the varsity, the seniors on that team called them "their babies," Stroup said.

When they were freshman, Stroup and Olson were grouped together because they were two of the taller girls on the team and they both have blonde hair.

"Someone called us the twin towers, and we laughed about it," said Stroup, who is now a couple of inches taller than Olson.

The bond between Stroup and Olson is mirrored throughout the team.

"I think this is probably the closest team we've had," said Olson. "We've all been friends forever. We are all outgoing."

When South huddles at the end of each practice, the team breaks to the chant of "11-17," referring to the date of Saturday's state title match.

If the Bruins are to make a championship run, Stroup and Olson will likely be at the forefront.

"We've expected big things from those two girls," said Safranski. "This is their year to be the leaders. Hopefully, the younger kids can learn from them."

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Like Stroup has since her first varsity action.

Tournament schedule

Today's games at the Jamestown Civic Center:

Class A

West Fargo vs. Bismarck Century, noon

Bismarck vs. Grand Forks Red River, 2 p.m.

Minot vs. Fargo Shanley, 6 p.m.

Fargo South vs. Williston,

8 p.m.

Class B

LaMoure vs. Langdon, noon

Center-Stanton vs. Kenmare, 2 p.m.

Dickinson Trinity vs. Ray,

6 p.m.

Lisbon vs. Thompson, 8 p.m.

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

Peterson's prep sports blog can be found at www.areavoices.com

The voice of experience Eric Peterson 20071115

Amy Stroup

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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