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2023 End of Season Recap WCA Knights Volleyball

By Missy Foslien, 12/04/23, 12:00AM CST


There’s more to a high school volleyball season than August through October.

Summer 2023- All summer we had been preparing for the season.  We had several practices through June and July, usually two per week. We went to three breakdown tournaments. We attended team camp at UND.  We knew going into the season we would be without one of our key outside hitters this year.  We also were without Sophie Sanstead in the libero position as her shoulder surgery put her out of commission until mid-September.  We also knew we were going to have some changes in coaching staff, as Assistant Coach Naomi Moerke stepped down and Coach Lauren Beyer would be going on maternity leave. Another blow to our program was Whitney Westrom’s broken arm in July, as a middle blocker/hitter, we were going to need to replace her for a while!  Freshman Jaclynn Nelson, stepped up to fill the middle role and a few players stepped in to help us figure out our missing libero/defensive specialist position too. I don’t know what led me to announce at our parent/player meeting back on Aug. 7th, that this season was going to be special, but it came out and I just believed it would be.


Preseason- August 14th came up fast! The first day of practice we began our countdown…68 hours of practice until our first potential playoff game. Each day we focused on getting better. We incorporated lifting regularly this season. Preseason seemed to fly by and then our first tournament, to Howard Lake Winstead-Waverly approached.  We weren’t sure what to expect, but we felt fairly confident after our first game win against Kimball. The rest of the day was not as successful as we dropped sets to Annandale, Melrose, and Buffalo Lake Hector. Our first conference match was also a bit shaky, as we lost handily to Sauk Centre 0-3. Whitney had approached me before the game and asked what I had thought of putting Madelyn into the libero position. I was hesitant to try it again, as we had given her a look there throughout the summer and in our preseason scrimmage.  But I decided to sit down after the loss to Sauk and hammer out a new rotation, one where I could fit 3 middle hitters as Whitney, Jaclynn and Izzy were all valuable players across our front line, and also not lose Madelyn in right back defense, as I felt she was our best defensive player there. We hosted Morris and had our first conference win and stuck with our new rotation.

School starts and the season rolls on- This year we knew we would hit some special career milestones.  Through the middle of our season we had quite a few pauses to recognize players. We had a thrilling five set win versus Melrose at home and a sweep at Minnewaska to improve our conference record to 3-1.  Another sweep versus Benson came later, but then a roadtrip to BOLD humbled us once again. At home versus Sauk Centre, we saw Mya break the school record for career kills with 904 (formerly held by Tana Lohse with 903). Going into our second tournament of the season at Parkers Prairie, our record was 6-6.  In the first game of this tournament against Park Christian, Macy Grosz went over the 2,000 assist mark, something no other WCA volleyball player has done before.  It was nice to face some of our section opponents in Parkers, and miraculously we pulled out a championship thriller, beating Parkers Prairie 2-1 with all sets being very close (26-28, 25-22, 17-15).  I remember Alaina Sykora’s serving that weekend.  She came in and held her composure to help us that day more than once! Jaclynn Nelson went down with a sprained ankle, and Wylie McNally came in and did a wonderful job on the outside as we shifted hitters Madi Fagre and Mya Foslien to be blockers in the middle for a few rotations.  We left feeling good as champions, but not satisfied with how we played. 


To the finish- The second half of our season started with an outstanding performance in Melrose.  Our girls did everything right, it was just such a fun match that night, going 3-1.  Sophie Sanstead made her way back on the floor and it was just such a fun night. After that game, we were back to playing up and down once again. We traveled to Morris, and had two more milestones broken as Macy Grosz got her 1000th dig and Mya Foslien got her 1,000th career kill. We got the win, but we definitely were not playing our best, just good enough to win the games we were expected to, and losing games to BOLD and Minnewaska after beating them both in set one.  At home versus BOLD on our Dig Pink Night, the volleyball program raised money for those affected by cancer. We have made it a way to personally support those we are close to and know, so the girls decided to bless our FFA/AG teacher Eric Swatzke and one of WCA’s bus drivers, Tony Ray, both special guys were humbled by this gracious gift. That night against BOLD Mya recorded her 1,000th career dig but it wasn’t a night we celebrated much as we knew we could play better. I wanted so much for these girls to figure out how to play steady, and not be so up and down.  The loss to Minnewasaka was even harder, and I think we needed a mental break after that one so I stayed up late and planned an escape room practice to have a little fun and to remember our WHY. We love this game and want to find joy in playing as a team!  We worked a lot on finishing games in our next practices.  We spent the majority of our practices in serve receive, where we knew we would need to earn points, also defending team’s hitters we knew were strong, and a lot of our time in this part of the season was spent on our mental game.  We met and talked about our roles on the floor; who is the stud, the winner, the stabilizer, the leader. We talked about controlling what we can control and doing “your '' job well.  We had team talks about being grateful, we had some hard conversations and conditioning about listening and respect, and it  is this  part of the season that is a  grind both physically and mentally. 

Entering the BlocktoberFest tournament, in Fergus Falls, our last tournament before playoffs, I didn’t know what to expect. Last year we faced state ranked Detroit Lakes right out of the gate. It was probably the worst we had ever played.  This year we had Pelican Rapids.  It was a win, but not excellent play.  Then we had Win-E-Mac, also a win but not wonderful. The next game would be Detroit Lakes. Now while the countdown to our playoffs was diminishing, we hadn’t talked a lot about our post season goals.  So I decided to challenge the team before we faced the Lakers.  I said, “I want you to play as if this is the game for you to get to State. How would you play?” The team turned it on! We went on to beat them in two, 27-25 and 25-19. We were thrilled! Then we defeated Hawley, who had beaten Pequot Lakes (the class 3A state champs this year) also a huge win! The championship game put us up against Sauk Centre, once again. We were happy to take one set from them 1-2 in that final match and excited to take 2nd place in the tournament going forward into playoffs. This was the team I knew they could be! It was also in this tournament that Madelyn Westrom reached 1,000 career digs. 

WCA Team Award Winners. Madi Fagre, Jaclynn Nelson, Sophie Sanstead, Madelyn Westrom, Mya Foslien, Izzy Puchalski.

STATE Here We Come- The whole experience was a magical ride. I can’t imagine if I had not had my coaching staff (Shelby Danielson was amazing at helping in the planning process and Morgan was our calming presence)and booster members, especially Kris Sanstead and Amy Puchalski, and parents and community members step up and support us the way they did, it was just so unbelievable, heartwarming and humbling. We had a very short turnaround. Sunday morning began the prep work, itinerary planning and such. Thankfully Mr. Foslien was on top of hotel reservations, practice location, and transportation, that we didn’t have to worry about a lot! When our final practice in Barrett came that Monday, the girls and coaches were running on fumes. Still so excited for the week ahead, but also battling colds and some illnesses.  Tuesday morning came and it was an all school pepfest, one I will never forget. The dads versus the daughters with Senator Torrey Westrom being a great sport as our referee. We also had some fun with staff and some of our senior high boys participating in the fun. But most of all I will not forget the feeling of pride for our school and hoping we would represent not only our littlest Knight volleyball players, our school, and our community, but also our section well. 

STATE EXPERIENCE- It was amazing to hear from coaches in our section or who I have faced in the past, willing to share film, watch film and give me a scouting report, or just share knowledge and experiences, it was so humbling.  Mya’s coach for Kandi Elite, just so happens to be a Hall of Fame coach here in Minnesota, and the coach I lost to my senior year (CMCS vs. Benson 1996), Traci Grussing reached out and asked if she could help in any way as she had been there several times as a coach. I took her up on it. I asked her how she prepared her team to play on such a big stage. She was awesome in giving me what my team needed.  I took her advice. After waiting what seemed like hours for us to take the floor on that Thursday, we stepped onto the court, circled up, and just looked around. Observing our crowd, taking in the sounds, the lights, everything. Then we turned our attention to each other and decided that the only things that mattered was this moment right now, us, our team, we play for each other.

 The girls battled well against New Life Academy. Down on the floor, they seemed much taller, but we played with heart and grit, and did not give up. A few things did not go our way, but we took that and let it fuel us for the next day when we faced Pine River Backus. Our goal was to make it to Saturday. We needed that five set victory and we got it.  It wasn’t perfect play, but in the first two games at state, Mya’s offense was critical.  When she was in the back row we needed our other offensive players to rise up and they did. Madi had an excellent night as well as Jaclynn and Izzy. Sophie, who had been so patient, came in and energized our team just when we needed her. We celebrated our win at State. We made it to Saturday, but Ely proved to be a team we just could not gain an edge on. 

The team was disappointed in their final performance, but that’s who we are, we don’t like to lose, we learned that we have to be mentally prepared for EACH and EVERY game, and we can never give up. While we sat in the Xcel watching that championship game, feeling down about losing, I received a text that made my heart so happy, we were awarded an All-Tournament Team member. Mya had made it! As a coach and a mom, this still brings me to tears.  You see, every year, if I could go, I have gone to the state tournament. I have gone as a high school athlete, a young coach, a new mom, sixteen years ago with the Northern Freeze for my first ever state coaching experience, I was there, and Mya was about nine months old.  I have been there with past teams to watch, and with my daughters too. Wanting them to understand that this is where we want to be, this is where we want to finish. This was what my heart had longed for, for so many years. There have been days, seasons, and years that I have wanted to just be done. This year, this year I knew it was going to be special. The dream came true, and I am just so happy for these girls, my team and the WCA community. Congratulations once again team, for a job well done! I love you all and will never forget this season.  

Special thank yous:
Sarah Schmall- fundraising, organizing, making booster meetings fun
Booster members: Jaimie Kruise and Heidi Huntley
Haley Grosz and Shelby Danielson for state shirt/sweatshirt orders
Amy Puchalski and Kris Sanstead for rocking it at State as our team moms
Jake- supporting me and making the run to State go smoothly…as long as I didn’t ask any questions
Mr. Peterson and Mr. Mnemic -making weight lifting a routine this season
Cassie our trainer- constant care
Bus Driver Gary-always staying positive and serving us with a smile
Bus Driver Steve with Rustad; amazing job and just an amazing human too
Our band and fan section for the amazing support and great chants
Our area Fire Departments- for giving up your Saturday night to bring us home with some noise
Lindsay Woessner- your pictures have captured so many precious memories for all of these players and parents, thank you for your amazing work
Maci Robinson- praying before games (Whitney and Alaina did too) and being so positive in her role this year
My coaches, Shelby and Morgan- I am so glad I got to experience this with you. You are dedicated to this program and I am so happy that you both joined us this year
Parents- thank you for encouraging your girls to join this amazing sport and for all of your support this year.  

All-Conference Volleyball Players, Macy Grosz, Madelyn Westrom, Mya Foslien, Madi Fagre.

Stat Leaders for 2023. Izzy Puchalski, Macy Grosz, Madelyn Westrom, Mya Foslien, Jaclynn Nelson.

Every year we put a chart up on the wall of the gym to keep our practices competitive.  Some drills players will earn stickers, and then we take the top three every year. 

Challenge Chart Winners 2023 (Grit Necklace)
Challenge Champ 2023 Izzy Puchalski
Challenge Champ 2023 Mya Foslien
Challenge Champ 2023 Jaclynn Nelson

Certificates- Stat Leaders 2023
Serving Ace
- Izzy Puchalski (41)
Setting Superstar- Macy Grosz (1030)
Awesome Attacker- Mya Foslien (526)
Digging Queen- Madelyn Westrom (642)
Block Party- Mya Foslien (42) Jaclynn Nelson (41)
Steady Server- Macy Grosz (97%)
Serve Receive-First Pass with Class- Madelyn Westrom 

Plaques- Team Awards
Most Improved Player 2023- Madi Fagre/Jaclynn Nelson
Knight Award/Most Valuable Teammate 2023- Sophie Sanstead
Miss Hustle 2023- Izzy Puchalski
Most Valuable Offense 2023- Mya Foslien
Most Valuable Defense 2023- Madelyn Westrom

Letterwinners for this year’s Knights Varsity Volleyball team are:
#1 JR  Keira Gehrke
#2  JR Macy Grosz
#3 JR Sophie Sanstead

#4 JR Mya Foslien
#5 SO Madi Fagre
#6 SR Madelyn Westrom
#7 SO Izzy Puchalski
#8 SR Alaina Sykora
#9 JR Wylie McNally
#10 SR Whitney Westrom
#11 FR Jaclynn Nelson
#12 SR Teagan Winter
# 13 SO Lily Mahoney
#15 SR Kaia Giese
Manager Maci Robinson

#14 Sidney Huntley
#16 Abbi McGee
#17 Brinley Ulrich
Manager Hayley Schmall
Manager Emily Strunk
Manager Josie Foslien
Photographer Lindsay Woessner

All-State Academic Award Winner Maci Robinson.

MVP of West Central Conference- Mya Foslien

All State- Mya Foslien

Class A All Tournament Team- Mya Foslien

Team Academic Gold Status

Maci Robinson- Academic All State

Career Milestones:
Macy Grosz- 2000 assists
Macy Grosz- 1000 digs
Mya Foslien- 1000 kills
Mya Foslien- 1000 digs
Madelyn Westrom- 1000 digs

School Records this Season:
Top serving % season- Macy Grosz            408/421          97%

Highest # of Kills/season- Mya Foslien (beat her own record of 405) 526 kills

Career kills (Tana Lohse 903 set in 2006) -Mya Foslien 1,267 kills

Assists-Season- Macy Grosz (last year 812) 1,030 assists

Assists- Career- Macy Grosz (Last year 1,657) 2,687 assists *and she still wants to get better!

Most digs-Season-(Kaitlyn Sanstead 522- 2018) Madelyn Westrom 642 digs

Most digs- Career (Kaitlyn Sanstead 1,065- 2018) Mya Foslien 1,247 digs, Macy Grosz has 1,201 and Madelyn Westrom finishes her career with 1,165 digs