After posting a rock-solid 19-10 overall performance last season, the Lion volleyball team will pin their hopes on the leadership of six returning letter winners in 2012.

"We are optimistic about our upcoming season, although we will definitely be working hard to fill the gaps created from graduation last year," head coach Kelsey Morken reported last week.

Morken, who's entering her third year with the program, will co-coach again this year with Michelle Anderson.

Anderson, who also serves as athletic director, has been at the helm for 22 years. She's also Morken's mother.

Returning 2011 SEC All-Conference setter Addison Cross, a senior, will serve as the nucleus for the offense. She'll be joined by senior class members Randi Mehus at outside hitter (OH) and Aryn Jahnke at DS (defensive specialist). All three lettered last year.

The junior class is well represented with 2011 SEC All-Conference middle hitter Nicole Ellingson leading the way. She's joined by fellow letter winner Aly Folz at the outside hitter position.

Other juniors stepping up this season include Tara Solberg at OH/DS, Heidi Buxengard at OH, and Sammi Boyd at setter/right side hitter.

Samantha Bratland lettered last year as a freshman and is listed at middle hitter (MH). She's joined by classmates Lauren Arneson at OH/DS and Kailee Bjerke at MH.

The freshman class is sending setter Jordan Anderson in at setter and Sierra Hunter at OH/DS.

Morken said that with Cross leading the offense, her other five letter winners will help "create a solid start for our defensive game... In order for us to be successful, we will need to continue to focus on our team defense, consistent yet aggressive serving and consistent play throughout entire matches.

"We are blessed to have a bunch of hard-working and dedicated girls and a few great leaders to carry us this season. Our areas of concern are maintaining consistency throughout entire matches and height."

Favorites in the conference and section will once again be perennial powerhouses Mabel-Canton, Faribault Bethlehem Academy and Wabasha-Kellogg, Morken said.

Spring Grove hopes to continue to stay near the top of the conference race, she added. Given their track record, the Lions are certainly a team that no one will take lightly this season.

The program is aided by third-year varsity volunteer assistant Kyle Hunzeker.

In the area of talent development, Spring Grove continues to rely on assistant coaches Bethany Bergsgaard (JV/9th grade) and Jenny Schieber (junior high).

The Spring Grove Lions open the volleyball season at home versus the Lions of Schaeffer Academy on Tuesday, Aug. 28 (7:15 p.m.).

Spring Grove will play in the Mabel-Canton Tournament on Saturday, Sept. 1.