2018 Herald Journal All-Area First Team
WINSTED – Another exciting season of high school volleyball has come to an end. Talent in the Herald Journal coverage area was on full display once again. Watertown-Mayer and Mayer Lutheran both reached the state tournament, while Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted enjoyed one of its best seasons in the past five years. Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity had a tough season record-wise, but were able to give multiple girls some valuable experience at the varsity level that bodes well for the future.
The Herald Journal All-Area Volleyball Team is comprised of players from the four schools we cover (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity, Watertown-Mayer, and Mayer Lutheran), and is broken into two teams (All-Area First Team and All-Area Second Team). There is also a Herald Journal Volleyball Player of the Year Award. Below are the players that have been selected to Herald Journal All-Area First Team.
Claudia Stahlke (Mayer Lutheran)
After being a nice role player for the Crusaders the past two seasons, Mayer Lutheran’s Claudia Stahlke burst into the spotlight this season. The junior middle hitter was a big reason the Crusaders were able to reach the state tournament for a third-straight season, and the awards came with that.
Stahlke was named All-State in Class A by the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association. She was an All-Conference selection for the MN River Conference. At the Class A showcase, which features some of the best teams in the state in Class A, Stahlke was named to the All-Tournament team.
On the season, Stahlke was second on the team in kills with 278 on the year. She averaged 2.5 kills per set, with a 36.9 kill percentage. Stahlke also had 111 blocks on the season, 36 of which were solo. She was no slouch defensively either, finishing with 36 digs.
At the state tournament, Stahlke elevated her game even more for Mayer Lutheran. In three matches, Stahlke finished with 46 kills, and had 14 or more kills in all three matches.
Her best game of the season came in a tough five-set thriller against Medford in the Class A state quarterfinals, in which she finished with 17 kills. In the last five matches for the Crusaders this season, Stahlke finished with 12 or more kills in every one of them.
Stahlke will be back for her senior season next year for the Crusaders, and will be looking to get back to the state tournament once again. With just one senior (Symone Jopp) on this year’s team, a return trip to state and an All-State selection isn’t out of reach for Stahlke and the Crusaders.
Isabelle Roufs (HLWW)
It was a season to remember for HLWW senior Isabelle Roufs. As the go-to hitter for the Lakers this season, Roufs always seemed to be able to deliver in the clutch.
In a regular-season match against rival Annandale, Roufs brought her best. She finished with a career high 31 kills to help lead the Lakers to a 3-1 victory. Roufs followed that up with 27 kills in the Section 6AA tournament against the Cardinals in a thrilling five-set match.
Roufs was named All-State for Class AA this season for her performance on the court. While her time is over in a HLWW uniform, she’ll continue her volleyball career at Central Connecticut State University next year.
Janessa Berrios (Watertown-Mayer)
While the season didn’t exactly end the way Janessa Berrios wanted it, that doesn’t take anything away from how she played before an ACL injury kept her sidelined for Watertown-Mayer’s run to the state tournament for a second-straight season. Even with the injury, Berrios still got the recognition she deserved.
Berrios was named All-State for Class AA despite missing the last three weeks of the season. Before the injury, Berrios was one of the top players in Class AA, and had the Royals rolling to open the season.
Berrios was already at 300 kills before the injury, and helped Watertown-Mayer get off to a 15-2 start. Berrios suffered the ACL injury against Hutchinson Oct. 11, and missed the final game of the regular season, as well as the postseason.
Nikki McDonald (Watertown-Mayer)
While the Royals were without Berrios for the postseason, they still had their fearless leader in Nikki McDonald. Whether it was with her play or attitude, McDonald was the leader for the Royals all season long.
She recorded her 2,000th career assist at the Class AA state tournament, the same spot she recorded her 1,000th career assist. On the season, she finished 820 assists, which ranked fourth in the state regardless of class.
McDonald was the heart and soul of the Royals all season long, especially in the postseason as they overcame the absence of Berrios to make their second-straight state tournament appearance. With her leadership and skill set, McDonald will be a big piece to replace next season for the Royals.
Paige Thibault (Watertown-Mayer)
The name Paige Thibault will be on this list at least a few more times. The sophomore outside hitter for the Royals stepped up her game this season, and quickly became one of the top hitters in the area.
Just a sophomore, Thibault was the go-to hitter for the Royals after Berrios’ injury. The Royals leaned on her and her powerful swing through the Section 5AA and Class AA tournament. She racked up 340 kills this season, but also was able to do it with her defense.
While the Royals lose five key seniors from this year’s squad, Thibault gives the Royals a great piece to build around for two more years.
2018 Herald Journal All-Area Second Team
Lanney Loebertmann (HLWW)
There’s not much Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted’s Lanney Loebertmann can’t do on the court. The energy she brings, the passion she plays with, and the skill set she has is a big reason the Lakers enjoyed one of their best seasons in a decade this year.
Loebertmann reached the 2,000 career assist milestone against Eden Valley-Watkins Oct. 11, and helped lead the Lakers to another successful season under head coach Brooke Decker.
Loebertmann had a knack for getting the ball in the right spot. While she had plenty of hitters to set up, she always knew the right time to pull the trigger herself and catch the opposing team off-guard by going over on two.
Alexa Schumann (HLWW)
Stepping into a bigger role this season, HLWW’s Alexa Schumann delivered. Schumann was a perfect second option for the Lakers this season, and was a big reason the Lakers enjoyed one of their best seasons in recent memory.
The junior outside hitter can do it all. Whether it’s laying the hammer down for a kill, taking a kill away with a dig in the back row, or serving up another ace, Schumann is a threat anywhere on the court.
With the Lakers losing Roufs next season to graduation, Schumann will take on an even bigger role for HLWW. She’s been on the varsity level since her freshman year, and will be a key player and leader for the Lakers next season.
Kate Thibault (Watertown-Mayer)
In the program, she’s just an eighth-grader. On the court, she looks like a veteran player that’s been doing it for years.
Watertown-Mayer’s Kate Thibault stepped up big time for the Royals this season, taking over the libero duties as an eighth-grader. It’s safe to say the job is hers for the next four years as she earned respect from her teammates and opposing teams for her play.
Thibault was named to the All-Tournament Team at the Class AA showcase this season, and showed she can handle the pressure under the bright lights of the state tournament this season at the Xcel Energy Center.
Kylie Hoese (Watertown-Mayer)
There’s something about the state tournament that brings out the best in Watertown-Mayer’s Kylie Hoese. The senior outside hitter had two of her best performances on the floor of the Xcel Energy Center, giving the Royals a spark they needed in both matches.
In two matches, Hoese finished with 27 kills, including 18 kills against St. Cloud Cathedral in the second match of the tournament.
Hoese gave the Royals another threat at the net to go along with Paige Thibault. While she was solid all season long, she stepped up her game once again in the postseason to help the Royals get back to the state tournament.
Lily Wachholz (Mayer Lutheran)
In her first season at the varsity level, Mayer Lutheran’s Lily Wachholz showed what she could do. Despite being a freshman, Wachholz made her impact on the court throughout the year, giving the Crusaders a weapon at the net for years to come.
Wachholz finished the season with 218 kills, which was the third-most on the team. She also had 75 blocks on the year, which was third-most for the Crusaders, as well.
The state tournament stage was not too bright for Wachholz. Instead of it being too much for her, the 6-foot-1 outside hitter finished with 27 kills at the Class A state tournament in three matches. She was a consistent threat throughout the tournament for the Crusaders, finishing with nine kills in each match.
Wachholz’s best performance of the season came against Jordan when she finished with 13 kills. She also racked up 13 kills two other times, once against SW Christian in a five-set match, and once against BOLD in the Section 2A North Sub-Section title game.