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Losing great players, Broncos don't expect defensive slip

The Hastings College volleyball team works out its defensive philosophy during an Aug. 9, 2018 practice. (KHGI)

Graduation stole a two–time NAIA Libero of the Year (Jill Bax) and two of the programs top three blockers from Hastings College volleyball.

How can they recover defensively?

"Good question, we'll find out, I don't know," head coach Matt Buttermore said. "I think we'll be pretty good on defense, or we could be really good.

Senior Casey Krolikowski is back; she was second in digs a season ago and a consistent producer on the outside. Sage Meyer was also a strong performer, digging up 184 balls while successfully passing at a 94.4 percentage rate.

"You start with not just the statistics of digging, but also digging well enough we can run offense," Buttermore says. The Broncos were good on 93.2 percent of their passes a year ago, a critical stat to get setters Clare Hamburger and sophomore Claira Thede in a good position.

The biggest defensive loss is at the tape. Lucy Skoch returns to the middle, and she led the Broncos with 143.0 rejections last year. In fact, her total from 2017 is only one less than the top four blockers combined who are coming back from the NAIA's best blocks per set team (2.86). Skoch was also the fifth highest rated individual with 1.42 blocks per set in her freshman season.

"At the net I think we'll be pretty close (to last year)," said Buttermore, starting his seventh year as head coach. "I don't know if we'll be quite there, but we might be better. I think that's a little bit up in the air right now."

So for the time being, hold off on the panic button regarding the Broncos inability to be a strong defensive team.

"Coach has really kept the focus on defense really big this off season, so even with those guys gone I think we're going to be just as tough if not tougher on defense this year," said Krolikowski.

The Broncos were picked to finish third by the coaches in the GPAC preseason poll. The NAIA preseason poll comes out Tuesday, Aug. 14.

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