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Eric Peterson, Published October 02 2013

VanWinkle has been a defensive dynamo for Dragons

Moorhead - When Kaitlin VanWinkle doesn’t come up with a block, she in essence is helping out her roommate.

The Minnesota State Moorhead sophomore middle hitter rooms with sophomore libero Amber Krenske.

“I may sometimes have to leave holes in my blocks so Amber feels like she is in the game,” VanWinkle said with smile and a laugh.

VanWinkle was named defensive player of the week for the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference this week. The 5-foot-11 VanWinkle averaged 2.09 blocks per set in the team’s past three matches.

Earlier this season, Krenske earned a school player of the week honor for her defense with 83 digs during a four-match stretch.

“So I said, ‘Oh is it going to be a contest between you two about who get defensive player of the week?’ because they are roommates and good friends,” said Dragons head coach Tammy Blake. “That was kind of funny.”

The Dragons (10-3, 3-2 NSIC) play host to Wayne State and Augustana on Friday and Saturday at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse.

VanWinkle leads the conference in blocks per set (1.27) entering the weekend.

“‘Roomies represent,’ that’s what we usually say,” said Krenske, who has missed seven matches this season with a knee injury.

VanWinkle went to high school at Lakeville (Minn.) South, where she holds the single-season record for blocks. She also excelled in track and field, competing in the long jump and sprints.

Her blend of height and athleticism are two factors that make VanWinkle an adept blocker.

Her instincts are also helpful.

“She is really quick at reacting to where it’s going,” Krenske said. “She can see what’s happening before it actually happens. She is really perceptive.”

VanWinkle touches around 118 inches high on her run and approach. That is among the best on the team and a couple inches shy of 10 feet.

VanWinkle likes the rush she experiences when she is able to block an opponent, finishing off a point.

“And then when you turn around and all your teammates are there cheering and supporting you and freaking out, I think it makes it even better,” VanWinkle said. “The feeling that you get is hard to describe. It’s the only time I have that feeling.”

Blake calls VanWinkle the “Energizer Bunny” as she never seems to get tired on the court.

Krenske also likes the energy VanWinkle brings to the team.

“If you do something like giving her a candy bar, she will get super excited over it,” Krenske said. “Little things make her happy.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com