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Edgewood-Colesburg’s 2019 varsity volleyball team: front from left, Hailey Rausch, Chezney Priem, Mariah Zittergruen, Rose Heuchelin and Ella Aulwes; back row, Bailee Helle, Kelsey Hansel, Annie Hoffman, Natalie Wessel and Liv Welsh.

At some point early in the 2019 season, Edgewood-Colesburg volleyball coach Eileen Bergan will win the 500th match of her career. Bergan, 497-346 in 29 years at Ed-Co, welcomes back only two starters among four returning letterwinners from last year’s 25-11 team that bowed out in a regional final loss to Tripoli, but is optimistic about the prospects for this year’s Vikings.

“Our past season saw the departure of some experienced seniors at every position,” said Bergan. “On the court with those seniors were two freshmen whose year of experience will be valuable to our development. Key to our growth will be the setting position and a change from a 6-2 offense to a 5-1.”

Senior Chezney Priem, who had 261 assists last year, is the heir apparent to the setter position, while senior outside hitter Natalie Wessel is the other returning starter.

Sophomores Kelsey Hansel and Annie Hoffman had impressive freshman campaigns, with Hansel notching 104 kills from the outside and Hoffman patrolling the middle and putting away 92 kills of her own.

Sophomore defensive specialist Ella Aulwes saw time last year, and Bergan lists another sophomore, Hailey Rausch, as a promising newcomer.

Bergan looks for her Vikings to be in the thick of the Tri-Rivers Conference race.

“The conference lost a talented group of seniors, so many teams will change their look from the start of the season to the end. After Starmont’s domination of the conference last season and the overall loss of talent from many teams, the conference title will not be a shoe-in for any team,” she said.

“Starmont graduated a talented group, but their overall team discipline will allow them to be competitive. After a rebuilding year, Springville will combine experience with a talented group of newcomers,” Bergan said. “North Linn is a developing and athletic team, and Central City has a young but experienced group of returners that will surprise some people.”