2019 Herald Journal All-Area Volleyball First Team
Everybody loves a good spike or kill when it comes to volleyball. While the area certainly has some players that can put the hammer down when called upon, they also are as versatile as they come.
Below is a look at the 2019 Herald Journal Volleyball All-Area First Team, featuring some of the most versatile players in the area.
Alexa Schumann (HLWW)
The Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted volleyball team lost a ton of talent from the 2018 team. They also brought back a ton of talent in the form of Alexa Schumann.
The senior outside hitter for the Lakers did it all this past season. She led the team in kills (215) and aces (36), while also being second on the team in digs (222). Schumann’s versatility and all-round talent helped the Lakers overcome the talent lost from a season ago.
With so many players from a year ago gone, Schumann was just one of two seniors on the roster this year for HLWW. Not only was she counted on for talent, but also for her leadership to help develop the younger girls playing alongside her.
“Alexa has had many roles on our team since she was a freshman, and this year as senior, she had an even bigger role to fill,” HLWW coach Brooke Orazem said. “She embraced it and took charge. We looked to Alexa as our go-to hitter in the front row but also getting us passing going in the back row. She is a player that plays with passion and energy that is contagious. She has been a part of a successful program, and has been a huge contribution to it the past few years. There will be big shoes to fill in her spot next year.”
Paige Thibault (Watertown-Mayer)
It’s hard to believe that Paige Thibault is only a junior and will be back for one more year with the Royals. She’s already played in three state tournaments, and this past season, the University of Virginia commit reaches 1,000 career kills and digs.
While Thibault’s skill set makes her one of the top players in the area, she’s also a leader on and off the floor for her team.
“Paige is a great teammate and leader,” W-M coach Andrea Raser said. “She is committed to the success of her team on and off the court. She’s the best all-around player.”
Thibault was named to the Class AA All-State Honorable Mention this year as a junior. She led the Royals with 454 kills, while also racking up 56 aces and 370 digs.
She was also an All-Conference selection in the Wright County Conference (West) after leading the Royals to a perfect 7-0 record and the conference title. She was selected to the All-Tournament Team at the Class AA Showcase, as well as a captain for the Royals this past season.
Kate Thibault (Watertown-Mayer)
There might not be a more exciting player in the area to watch than Watertown-Mayer’s Kate Thibault. Anyone who has seen a match for the Royals this past season knows the freshman knows how to celebrate a point, and knows how to do so in style.
Thibault gave the Royals plenty to celebrate all season long. She led the state in digs with 606 regardless of class. She also finished with 31 aces, 43 assists, and 36 kills, as she truly did a little of everything for the Royals. That helped her being named to the All-Conference team for the WCC West this season.
While Thibault can do it all on the court, it’s her contagious energy that has a big affect on her teammates.
“Kate is the driving force behind keeping the ball in play,” Raser said. “She’s the spitfire on our team that gets us pumped.”
Lilly Wachholz (Mayer Lutheran)
At times last year, Lilly Wachholz showed flashes of being a go-to hitter for the Crusaders. This year as a sophomore, Wachholz put it all together and was a huge piece to the success of Mayer Lutheran.
Wachholz led the Crusaders in kills with 333, while also recording 62 digs and 68 blocks. With Olivia Tjernagel and Claudia Stahlke gone next year, Wachholz will now be the go-to hitter for the Crusaders, as she’s already proven she can be.
“Lilly is a determined athlete with excitement and fire by her side,” Mayer Lutheran coach Joelle Grimsley said. “She led the team in kills this year, and was a very vocal leader.”
Claudia Stahlke (Mayer Lutheran)
One of the most underrated, yet talented players in the state this year was Mayer Lutheran’s Claudia Stahlke. At any point, the senior could take over a match and give the Crusaders a spark.
Stahlke did that time and time again as she was third on the team in kills with 241. She also had 58 blocks, 39 digs, and 13 aces as her versatility was key for Mayer Lutheran.
Stahlke’s toughness also makes her one of the top players in the area. After missing two matches in the postseason with an ankle injury, Stahlke battled through that injury in the Section 2A title game.
“Claudia is an explosive player with a desire to push her teammates,” Grimsley said. “She is full of energy and someone to reckon with at the net.”
2019 Herald Journal All-Area Volleyball Second Team
Setters and liberos are sometimes overlooked players, as everyone loves a good kill. Those kills wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for those setters and liberos, and there’s plenty of good ones around the area.
Below is a look at the 2019 Herald Journal Volleyball All-Area Second Team filled with setters and liberos.
Jenna Pelnis (HLWW)
She may be young, but HLWW’s Jenna Pelnis is proving she’s one of the best liberos in the area.
Pelnis once again led the Lakers in digs this season with 431. She also added 18 aces, 32 assists, and two kills as she has continued to grow into a go-to player for HLWW.
“Jenna plays with true passion and makes everyone around her better,” HLWW coach Brooke Orazem said. “She is a great team player and puts the team’s success over her own. Her skills are second-to-none when it comes to playing defense and serve receive, something that our team relies heavily on in the back row. I’m excited to see Jenna develop even more these next two years and see where she can bring this team.”
Josie Dolezal (LP/HT)
Anyone who watched the Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity volleyball team this season knows how good of a libero Josie Dolezal is. While just one of few seniors on the roster this season for the Bulldogs, Dolezal was a crucial part in all aspects of the game for her team.
Dolezal led the team in digs with 305, while also finishing third in aces with 31. As the libero, Dolezal was leaned on for her leadership all season long no matter where she was on the floor.
“Josie was a key leader on our team this year, and has been a joy to coach,” LP/HT coach Mary Otto said. “She will be missed tremendously. She worked hard all season, was always vocal on the court, and worked so great with all of the other girls. We never had to worry about our back row with her back there. She never let a ball hit the floor without making an attempt at it. She always hit the floor to go after it, hustled to shanked balls, and gave it 110 percent every time. It was our honor to be able to be her head coach for her final season here at LP/HT. If she takes with her, her work ethic she had on the VB court, she’s bound to go places in her career path she chooses.”
Morgan Chmielewski (Mayer Lutheran)
Morgan Chmielewski had big shoes to fill once she took over the libero position for the Mayer Lutheran volleyball team. She’s done more than just fine.
Chmielewski led the team in digs with 376, and almost was like a second setter on the floor as she tallied 74 assists, as well.
There’s no play on the floor Chmielewski can’t make, and she also offers a sense of calmness for her team, as well.
“She is a calming factor out on the court,” Mayer Lutheran coach Joelle Grimsley said. “She’s very determined to sacrifice her body to get that ball up and keep it off the floor.”
Natalie Ernhart (Watertown-Mayer)
Sophomore Natalie Ernhart waited patiently for her time to be the full-time setter for the Watertown-Mayer volleyball team. This year, it was all hers and she didn’t disappoint.
Ernhart stepped right in and delivered time after time helping lead the Royals to a third-straight state tournament appearance. For the season, Ernhart finished with 844 assists, 33 aces, 160 digs, and 28 digs.
“As a sophomore, Natalie stepped up and helped run our offense,” W-M coach Andrea Raser said. “She was a young leader on our court.”
Emma Lade (Mayer Lutheran)
She may just be a sophomore, but Mayer Lutheran’s Emma Lade has already proved she’s one of the best in the area.
Lade reached 1,000 career assists this season after posting 701 assists alone this year. She split the setting duties with senior Riley Corrigan at times, as Lade’s versatility let her play almost anywhere on the floor.
Lade also had 24 aces, 168 digs, and 12 blocks as she was a key piece to the dangerous lineup for the Crusaders.
“Emma is another athlete that has the fire and grit to continue to work hard and get better,” Grimsley said. “She led the team and worked very hard at getting the ball where it needed to be to end the rally.”