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Young Owls ready to bounce back after losing talent to graduation

 The Hancock Owl volleyball team lost two of its three all-conference players from the 2021 and will look to build a roster filled with potential in 2022.

Adrianna Bibeau will be the coach for the 2022 season as Alyssa Ukestad was already hired for 2023 and beyond. It’s a unique situation, but as a first-time coach, the one season of coaching will give insight as to if coaching is actually something she enjoys, Bibeau said.

Returning for the Owls is all-conference player Misti Zempel, who returns as a junior this season. She led the Owls defensively last year with 30 blocks in the front row and 161 digs in the back row. The full rotation player had 73 kills and a team-best 92.2 percent serve percentage with 25 aces on the year.

“Misti is an incredibly strong player. She is confident in any position and isn’t afraid to swing hard while still playing smart. She is most definitely a leader on the team even after just a week of practice. I’m excited to see how she does this year,” Bibeau said of Zempel’s leadership role on the team.

Gabi Joos and Cassandra Villela Velez return as the lone seniors of the group this season.

“We have a pretty young team, but there’s nothing wrong with that. All of the girls are athletic and have a lot of potential,” Bibeau said of the youth of the team.

Due to the youth of the roster, Bibeau has been doing a lot of shifting around to find the best chemistry and in hopes to get players to grow into well-rounded volleyball players.

“I’ve been moving a lot of players to positions that they wouldn’t typically play to get them out of their comfort zone,” Bibeau said.

The Owls finished 10-10 overall and got upset in the Section 6A playoffs by No. 6-seeded Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley in 2021.

“My goal this year is to have a record equal to or even better than last year,” Bibeau said.

After finishing third at 4-4 in the final season of the Pheasant Conference, the Owls have joined the Little Eight Conference following the dissolution of the Pheasant Conference at the end of the school year last spring. The Little Eight Conference was dominated by Underwood in 2021 as the Rockets went 10-0 en route to a conference title. Brandon-Evansville, Parkers Prairie and Battle Lake were also well represented on last year’s all-conference teams.

The Owls went 6-5 against Little Eight Conference competition last year.

I am walking into this blind,” said Bibeau, who is unfamiliar with high school conferences in Minnesota. “I’m excited to see how the girls compete in this new conference and I’m definitely not going to underestimate anyone coming in.

The Owls open the 2022 against Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley Friday, Aug. 26, in Hancock, before three consecutive road games at Breckenridge Aug. 30, C-G-B Sept. 6 and Hillcrest Lutheran Sept. 8.

Hancock Volleyball Schedule

August 25 vs. CGB 7:00pm

August 30 @ Breckenridge 7:30pm

September 8 @ Hillcrest 7:00pm

September 12 @ CGB 7:00pm

September 15 vs. Battle Lake 7:00pm

September 20 @ Ortonville 7:00pm

September 22 vs. Ashby 7:00pm

September 27 @ Parkers Prairie 7:00pm

September 29 @ Rothsay 7:00pm

October 1 @ Bertha Hewitt Tournament TBD

October 4 vs. Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa 7:30pm

October 6 vs. Underwood 7:00pm

October 11 @ Wheaton Herman Norcross 7:00pm

October 13 vs. Brandon Evansville 7:00pm

October 17 @ Underwood 7:15pmOctober 18 vs. Central Minnesota Christian 7:00pm