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Bismarck State

The Bismarck State College volleyball team is coming off a strong season in which it posted a 27-8 overall record and a pair of victories in the postseason.

Despite losing multiple key players to graduation, the Mystics were one of five teams listed just outside the top 20 of the NJCAA Division II preseason poll. Parkland (Ill.) currently ranks No.1 with Lincoln Land (Ill.) and Johnson Country (Kan.) rounding out the top three.

“It doesn’t mean anything to us in our early season,” Mystics coach Jeni Walsh said. “I was a little surprised after losing all the sophomores that we did. We’re going to take it and try to live up to those expectations.”

BSC graduated outside hitter Chai Pappa and middle hitter Addie Eamon, two key components from the team’s successful 2015 season.

“A lot of our firepower graduated,” Walsh noted. We looked to Chai [Pappa] and Addie [Eamon] a lot last year. We’re looking to find out who our go-to hitters are going to be.”

Replacing the strong production of the pair of playmakers may not be realistic, but Walsh has plenty of experience with the process that goes into finding success at a two-year program.

“Every year is a rebuilding year,” she said with a laugh. “We tell them to get a little bit better every day. By the end of the season we will be a whole lot better.”

Part of the process of getting better quickly is making the most out of spring practice. Walsh and her staff bring the players in and set their expectations in front of their team immediately, hoping that by the time the regular season rolls around, the team will be ready to compete with less growing pains.

“We have to learn on the fly,” Walsh said. “Right now it’s a high learning curve. We do a lot with spring volleyball and work with the girls, and they come back in the fall ready to go.”

In order for this to happen, however, the Mystics will need their sophomore leaders to step up. Walsh expects for outside hitter Hadley Rosales and middle hitter Cassidy Miller to carry the load for her team, while also noting that outside hitter Rumor Stokes has been practicing very well.

BSC’s roster also includes seven freshman, players that will need to gain experience quickly in order to contribute and help the Mystics turn in a second consecutive successful season. Among others, Walsh noted that former Bismarck Demon Jaycee Walter has been impressive as the team gets set for a scrimmage against the University of Mary today.

U-Mary will present the Mystics with plenty of difficulty, something that Walsh hopes will raise the level of level of play of her squad.

“I’m looking to see how our hitters handle U-Mary’s size,” she said. “They’re going to put up a solid block against us, and I want to see our reaction.”

The Mystics face the Marauders at 3:30 p.m., this afternoon at the University of Mary before opening the regular season Saturday at the Minnesota State Community and Technical College tournament.