Staples-Motley volleyball started hot.

The Cardinals started the season 7-1 with their most notable win being a 3-2 defeat of Mid-State Conference rival Detroit Lakes Thursday, Sept. 9.

Senior setter Leah Bestland is one of the main reasons for the Cardinals’ fast start. She recorded 69 set assists, 36 digs, eight ace serves and five kills last week in wins over Detroit Lakes and Bertha-Hewitt.

“Leah is a fun player to watch,” Staples-Motley’s head coach Gretchen Bestland said. “She has a high IQ for the game and with running a 5-1 she kind of drives and controls where the ball is going to, which hitter is hot and spreads the offense around. And it just all kind of came together against DL.”

She tallied six ace serves in the Detroit Lakes game, including the game-winning ace in the fifth set to help the Cardinals win the final set 15-13.

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“It was super nerve-wracking,” Leah Bestland said. “The crowd was so into it and it was a pleasure that I could do it for them. That was a huge win for us. We communicated really well and had been practicing leading up to that game. It was a huge game and really exciting.”

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Gretchen Bestland is also Leah’s mother.

“This has been a fun group,” Gretchen said. “We have four seniors that have been with us since sixth grade when we started coaching. To see them having a successful season is just so much fun. This group works so well together. They just enjoy each other. They’re serious when they need to be. They’re lighthearted and have a good time on the court. They play a lot of volleyball together, so it’s fun to see it all come to fruition and have success in their senior year.”

Leah Bestland said her mom has been one of her biggest supporters.

“It’s fun having her be with all my friends,” she said. “Having her along for the ride on this awesome team has been a great time.”

The win over Detroit Lakes was a big confidence booster because it was the first time the Cardinals had beaten them since Gretchen Bestland started coaching.

“I think it’s been a long time since we have gotten a win over them,” she said. “It was just a huge confidence booster and girls told me in the huddle after the game ‘we finally got them.’ They’ve been wanting to overcome some of these teams that we could not finish in previous years.”

Last year, Leah Bestland recorded 154 set assists, 97 digs, 11 kills and 16 ace serves with a 96% serving percentage in eight games to be named Dispatch All-Area honorable mention.

“What makes her a good setter is that she is very smart with the game,” Gretchen Bestland said. “She can read that defense on the other side. She knows where she should put the set to make our girls be more powerful against the defensive block. Just a smart player overall.”

Leah Bestland has built good chemistry with hitter Morgan Becker, who last week tallied 37 kills, 11 digs, three ace serves, two set assists and one block in the two wins.

“Leah and Morgan are a fun pair,” Gretchen Bestland said. “They have said over and over again that they just know where each other is on the court. Leah told me that Morgan doesn’t even have to tell her or call for the ball; she can just almost hear Morgan come up behind her. So they are just a really fun pair to watch. It’s just fun to see them get stronger each game.”

Volleyball at the next level is something Leah is interested in if the right situation comes.

“I’m looking and if offers come my way I’ll take a look at those,” she said. “I’m very open to the idea.”

Other notable performances:
Volleyball: Jayden Spillum, Little Falls, recorded 38 kills, 25 digs and four ace serves on the week.
Madison Schmitz, Verndale, recorded 38 set assists and 30 digs on the week.
Maci Martini, Pequot Lakes, recorded 32 kills, 25 digs, four ace serves, two set assists and one block on the week.
Morgan Becker, Staples-Motley, recorded 37 kills, 11 digs, three ace serve, two set assists and one block on the week.
Soccer: Mikayla Houdek, Little Falls, scored eight goals last week.
Kendall Swantek, Little falls, scored three goals last week
Cross-Country: Kyanna Burton, Staples-Motley, won the Minnewaska Invite in 19:21.07.
Calia Chaney, Pequot Lakes, won the Pequot Lakes Invite in 19:16.7.

Tennis: Megan Muller, Carly Chaney, Payton Mudgett-Allyson Yahn and Ellie Ouranik-Aubrey Wizcek-Jordan Gartner, Pequot Lakes, all won the Moose Tournament going 4-0

Leah Bestland

Year: Senior

School: Staples-Motley

Sport: Volleyball

Position: Setter

Highlights: She recorded 69 set assists, 36 digs, eight ace serves and five kills last week in wins over Detroit Lakes and Bertha-Hewitt