PREP OF THE WEEK: Vikings’ Reiss in usual attack mode

MINNEOTA – As a third-year starter for Minneota, middle-hitter Taylor Reiss is no stranger to success. The Vikings have qualified for the state volleyball tournament four consecutive years, resulting in one second-place finish and three third-place finishes. Reiss and the Vikings are striving to make their fifth state appearance this year but hope to break their recent third-place tradition with a top finish at this year’s tournament.

“I want to win a state championship,” said Reiss.

Reiss made her first state appearance in 2010 as an eighth-grader when the Vikings took home their first third-place finish after defeating Mayor Lutheran High School in five games.

In 2011, the Vikings claimed their second third-place finish beating out Ada-Borup, 3-0. After losing to Southwest Christian in last year’s semifinals, the Vikings came back to defeat Win-E-Mac High School in a 3-0 victory, claiming the third-place spot for the third time.

Reiss’ impressive performances in 2011 and 2012 earned her a spot on the all-tournament team.

“My school has been pretty successful,” said Reiss. “I have been able to feel what it’s like to go to state and know what it’s like to play those hard teams.”

The small town of Minneota has been infected with volleyball fever and shows extensive support of the program and its players.

“There is always a high expectation for us,” said Reiss. “I just hope we can live up to the expectation.”

Reiss has done just that as a stand-out athlete, helping her team to a 26-3 record this season.

“We have a great run here,” said Minneota head coach Stephanie Hennen. “She has been a big part of that.”

Reiss is the Vikings’ leading hitter, with 425 kills this season, but she says her favorite thing to do on the court is block (she has 62 blocks).

“The best feeling is when you get a solo block on someone,” she said.

Reiss credits her team’s accomplishments to the connection they have among each other and the friendships they have developed.

“We just want to go out and work hard,” said Reiss. “We all want what is best for each other.”

Reiss’ favorite part of volleyball this season has been the time she gets to spend with her teammates on the bus rides home.

“We sit together, talk and just play games,” she said.

“Our team is so balanced and they each have a role,” said Hennen.

Reiss recognizes the Vikings’ setter, Megan Larson, as the leader of the team.

“She keeps us all together,” said Reiss. “She is someone we look to when we are down to get us back up.”

Reiss believes the Vikings are stronger offensively, but “our defense can get shaky at times; it helps when we have a good setter and people who can score in the front row.”

She also mentioned her fellow captains, Molly Hennen and Shelby Corbin, for their ability to keep the team focused during practice and in a match.

“Everyone does one thing that helps our team,” said Reiss.

The Vikings also use each other as a support system when tensions rise during a game. They use a buddy system to stay in check despite frustrations they may face.

“We look to them to keep us calm,” said Reiss. “They make sure we don’t get too upset.”

Reiss’ buddies have been able to help her relax this season and focus on the task at hand through laughter or a smile.

As for Reiss, her coach appreciates her abilities on and off the court.

“Taylor brings so much to our team,” said Hennen. “She is fun, athletic and a great kid to work with.”

As a junior, Taylor anticipates what lies ahead for her at Minneota.

“I think next year will be difficult since we will be losing a lot of our main players,” said Reiss. “I think I will have to be more of a leader and help our team get through it, helping the younger kids who will have to step up.”