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2012 Fall Preview: Youthful New Life volleyball team gaining 'buzz'

New Life senior captain Matty Steele, a middle hitter, is expected to lead the youthful Eagles volleyball team on and off the court this fall.

Entering his third year as head coach, Wally Bomgren expects his New Life Academy volleyball team to be among the clubs to beat in the conference and section.

"We have a very strong buzz for volleyball at New Life -- lots of girls are excited about playing," Bomgren said. "With many of them being young, we are very excited about this year, and the years to come."

Last year NLA finished 18-12 overall. The Eagles' year ended with a 3-0 loss to top-seeded Southwest Christian School in the Section 4A semifinals after beating fifth-seeded Lester Prairie 3-1 in the quarterfinals and Maranatha Christian Academy in the opening round.

Off that team, New Life had to say goodbye to captains Claire Hawkins, Reagan Baar and Lauren Ruhr along with Makayla Stone, All-Conference hitter Ally Lamb, Hannah Tongen and Renee Barrett due to graduation -- all of whom "had a lot of court time for New Life the last few years," according to Bomgren.

New Life senior captain Matty Steele, a middle hitter, is expected to lead the team on and off the court this fall. In addition, second-team All-Conference setter Kara Stenersen -- a freshman -- is back with the Eagles, as are freshmen standouts Abby Gorter and freshman hitter Abby Thor, who Bomgren said are "poised to have a great season." Gorter is also a team captain this year. Sophomore Maddie Stocker will be back with the team and "is poised to have a banner year at libero," Bomgren said.

"She has strong focus and loves the position," he said. "She will handle the ball a lot for us this year."

Bomgren also named freshman Sydney Mortenson and eighth-grader Hannah Nelson as promising newcomers.

"They are two young players with very fine skills who will be fun to watch in the next four or five years here at NLA," he said.

Bomgren said his Eagles will be among the top teams in the conference and in the section, along with Southwest Christian and Heritage Christian Academy. In the section, however, he said he expects two-time section champion Mayer Lutheran to be the team to beat.

NLA started its 2012 season on Tuesday, Aug. 28, after the Bulletin went to print. Next, the Eagles take on Randolph on Thursday, Aug. 30. Some other key games include: at Heritage on Tuesday, Sept. 18, against Southwest Christian at NLA on Friday, Oct. 12, and at Mayer Lutheran on Monday, Oct. 22, in the regular-season finale.

Bomgren said he's excited to get the season going.

"Even though we are young, nearly all of our players are playing volleyball year round, and their skills show it," Bomgren said.