Filling big shoes; Walski runs high-powered Sacred Heart offense
Molly Hanson was a fixture at the setter's position for East Grand Forks Sacred Heart.
For the past five seasons, Hanson ran the Eagles' offense. She shared setter duties with Hannah Hollcraft last season when Sacred Heart set a program record for wins in a season, going 25-3.
Hanson graduated last spring. So did Hollcraft. And stepping in as their replacement was sophomore Dana Walski.
"I didn't set any varsity last year,'' Walski said. "It was a big change for me, and I was filling some big shoes. It was intimidating for me, a little scary at first.
"But everyone on the team was very welcoming. They've all helped me a lot.''
With its new quarterback and a veteran hitting corps, Sacred Heart hasn't skipped a beat.
The Eagles are 15-1, their lone setback in five sets to Stephen-Argyle. They've adjusted on the fly as Walski has adjusted to a faster pace and learned where to put the sets to different hitters.
"At the start of the year, my sets were high,'' senior hitter Jessica Remer said. "I like faster sets. We worked on that, getting my sets lower. And we've gotten it done. Dana is really good. She's picked things up quickly.
"It was an adjustment. I didn't think it would be that big (an adjustment). But Molly was always our setter. Then Hannah, too. It was different at the start of the year.''
The adjustments began last summer, during Junior Olympics and open gym practices.
"As a team, you get used to a setter,'' Sacred Heart coach Emily Vonasek said. "How she calls for the ball, where she'll be on the court, the types of sets and where they'll be—it's a comfort having a setter you know well.
"With a new setter, it's like starting over. She has to gain the hitters' trust. Dana has worked a lot on timing with our hitters. She's consistently given hitters the set where they want it. I could see over the summer that Dana was playing well, that she was meshing with our hitters. She's doing a really good job.''
Remer, senior Ivy Edwards and junior Maddi Mitzel were a strong foundation of returning regulars to build around at the net.
Remer, an all-conference pick last season, already has 164 kills. She recorded her 1,000th career kill Tuesday. Edwards, also a returning all-conference pick, has 192 kills. Mitzel has 117 kills and a team-leading 15 blocks.
"They're getting the job done repeatedly,'' Vonasek said. "And with Bella Knudson filling (2018 graduate) Katelyn Rudolph's spot, we've been able to spread the offense around. We have a lot of options.
"They're all powerful hitters. They're very smart hitters. They can place the ball. They know when to swing away and when to hit open spots. We're strong offensively. It comes down to getting the ball to our setter. We've been a little inconsistent with our defense and passing.''
The Eagles still have a strong remaining schedule. On Tuesday, they host intracity rival East Grand Forks Senior High. After that, they're in the annual Frostbite tournament in Stephen that includes several of their top opponents in West Section 8A.
"That will be a good measure of where we're at,'' Vonasek said.