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Tom Mix, Published October 08 2013

Deacons volleyball off to dominant start

Fargo - A relatively new look to its varsity volleyball rotation from a year ago hasn’t been accompanied by a slide in the Eastern Dakota Conference standings for Fargo Shanley.

In fact, the Deacons sit atop the EDC standings and have gone undefeated through the first half of the season.

Besides 6-foot junior all-state middle hitter Alivia Fraase, Shanley (16-0, 12-0 EDC) essentially rebooted its starting varsity lineup when practice began in August.

“They have responded very well with what we have implemented from Day 1,” Shanley head coach Curt Johnson said. “We have tried to speed up our offense and they have bought into what we are selling.”

Johnson said most of the roster has played together for several years and is pleased the chemistry has transitioned onto the varsity level.

“We have a good group of competitive girls that go out there with a common goal of winning,” senior setter Hannah Krauter said.

The offense has been keyed by the junior tandem of Fraase and Somer Bucholz.

Entering Tuesday’s match against Grand Forks Central, Fraase led the Deacons with 213 kills and was just 72 kills away from reaching 1,000 for her career. Bucholz, who saw time at the libero position last season, has posted 141 kills.

Fraase, a University of North Dakota volleyball recruit, also leads the Deacons with 36 blocks and has also seen increased time in the back row with Bucholz on the Deacons’ serve receive.

“Right now we have Somer (Bucholz) and Alivia (Fraase) back on every serve receive,” Johnson said. “I honestly think they are two of the best passers in the state. Other teams have to think about that and figure out where those two are at all times.”

The move also allows Fraase to be more versatile on offense, getting clearance to strike at any part of the net.

“I like the variety,” Fraase said. “It makes it harder for teams to know where every one of our players are hitting. Hitting at all three positions has been fun.”

Bucholz also has flourished in her new role on the team as an outside hitter.

“Last year, playing defense helped me learn the game,” Bucholz said. “This summer I worked on my hitting because I knew how to play up to that level. Last year I wasn’t all that happy only playing in the back row, but the hard work has paid off big time.”

Entering Tuesday, the Deacons had only dropped six sets and had recorded seven 3-0 sweeps in EDC play.

Shanley started the season with six wins at a tournament in Bismarck, which included a 2-1 decision against defending Class A state champions Bismarck Century.

“We are pleasantly surprised,” Johnson said. “We knew that we were very athletic and that we would improve as the year went on, but the wins in Bismarck at the beginning for the year gave them some confidence. Now the more they play the more confident they have been getting.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562