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Chris Murphy, Published October 18 2013

Seniors have sparked elevated play of Fergus Falls volleyball program

Moorhead - The eight seniors on the Fergus Falls volleyball team entered high school three years ago with the Otters having won 14 volleyball matches in the previous two years combined.

They topped that as freshmen, helping transform Fergus Falls from an 8-16 team to a 15-12 team, and it only got better. The Otters went 48-12 the next two seasons.

“I definitely think they changed things,” Fergus Falls coach Renee Erickson said. “This group of seniors is just a really dynamic class.”

After two wins Friday at the Moorhead Pumpkin Classic Invitational, it’s business as usual for Fergus Falls. The Otters are 21-4, ranked No. 6 in Class 2A and have won 14 straight matches.

For Brianna Rasmusson, Devonie Smith, Jordan Harworth, Laura Gaustad, Kristin Traiser, Anna Monke, Jordan Heinen and McKenna Kvem, they are just doing what they’ve been doing together since fourth grade.

“We’ve played together for so long, and our grade has been so successful,” Rasmusson said. “As we got to the varsity level, we just carried it over and got better, because we’ve been playing together for so long.”

It was something Erickson noticed before they were high school students.

“I think I noticed when they were in seventh grade,” Erickson said. “They’ve gotten to know each other so well. They know their quirks and what works and what doesn’t. It’s a nice thing to have as a coach.”

Coming into the Pumpkin Classic on Friday, the top five kill totals and top five block totals for Fergus Falls belonged to seniors. Rasmusson (272) and Monke (202) lead the way in kills, and both Monke (107) and Rasmusson (70) lead the team in blocks. Rasmusson also leads the team with 349 assists and 39 aces, and Smith (375) and Gaustad (327) lead the team in digs.

The seniors have their names all over Fergus Falls’ success.

“We’ve grown up together in that core group,” Monke said. “We’ve played with each other for so long that it was kind of natural for us.”

Unnatural is thinking of this group playing sports separately. Rasmusson is heading to North Dakota State to play volleyball, and Monke will be going to Minnesota-Duluth to play basketball next year.

“It’s crazy to think that it’s already gone,” Monke said. “People say it goes fast, but you don’t realize it until you experience it. We’re all going on to bigger and better things and I think we’ll all do really good things at the college level, whether we’re playing sports or not.”

There is still one thing left for this group to do. Fergus Falls has never been to the state tournament, falling to Bemidji in the section championship the last two seasons.

“Their goal is to make it to the state tournament,” Erickson said.

It’s now or never for this group of seniors.

“I think this year we’re really focused and really determined to get to state,” Rasmusson said. “It’s never happened before, and we think that this is the year we can do it.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548