Faribault Bethlehem Academy Cardinal volleyball head coach Franz Boelter knows even though his team did not win a state championship last season his team has a target on their back.

The Cardinals were rated No. 1 in Class A in the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association preseason poll. These polls are based a lot on the previous year and, in some cases, that makes sense, like this one.

Back for the Cardinals is one of the best all-around players in the area and the state, Payton Nutter. Nutter has started since her seventh-grade season and can do it all on the volleyball court. Nutter will be playing volleyball for Concordia of St. Paul after leaving Bethlehem Academy and will enjoy their fast-paced offense.

Also back is classmate Shelby Meyer. Both are listed as setters, but I have a hunch they will be doing plenty of attacking at the net.

Junior Mary Campbell is back at the net as a middle hitter. Senior Keely Skluzacek returns as a libero and really blossomed in that role. Sophomore Olivia Nass saw significant playing time last season and, while teams tried to pick on the new kid in the lineup, she met the challenge time after time.

During the Faribault Coaches Show on Saturday at Bashers, Boelter noted junior Meagan Donahue saw quite a bit of playing time last season also and he expects her size to help at the net.

The Cardinals are the defending Gopher Conference champions and finished second at state last season to Waterville-Elysian-Morristown in the all Gopher Conference championship match.

Bethlehem Academy opens their season tonight at Lakeville North and I will have the call on Power 96 Radio 95.9 FM beginning about 6:45PM.

This has been a traditional opener now for a little over a decade I believe, and these two teams have been traditional state powers.

Lakeville North has been down a bit the past two seasons and is coming off a 3-6 South Suburban Conference record and 9-18 overall. That's a bit misleading. The South Suburban just might be the best conference in the state for volleyball. Last season, four teams in the league finished with 20 wins or better and seven teams collected 15 wins or more.

Head coach Jackie Richter has been a winner wherever she has coached and Boelter is confident she'll get the program back to its previous level in time.

This year's Lakeville North team does not have a single senior on the roster.

Bethlehem Academy finished last season 17-7 and always plays a schedule stacked with powerful teams.

The Panthers lost to Faribault High School at home in the opening round of sections last season.

Their crosstown rival Lakeville South Cougars were up and coming last year and are ranked third in the state in the Class AAA preseason poll.

Bethlehem Academy at match point in 2015 State Semis- photo by Gordy Kosfeld Nov. 13, 2015
Bethlehem Academy at match point in 2015 State Semis- photo by Gordy Kosfeld Nov. 13, 2015



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