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PREP VOLLEYBALL: Abby Hennen: 2020 Marshall Independent Volleyball Player of the Year

Illustration by Sam Thiel Minneota's Abby Hennen was named the 2020 Marshall Independent Volleyball Player of the Year.

MINNEOTA – This past fall season was unlike any other for high school athletes across the nation. Some had seasons delayed or canceled entirely, and when they did get them underway, they never knew if they were putting on their uniforms or lacing up their cleats for the final time due to the COVID-19 pandemic altering their schedule each week.

That didn’t stop Abby Hennen and the rest of her Minneota teammates from posting another strong season, as the Vikings went 13-1.

Hennen said while they weren’t able to do a lot of the things they’ve done in previous years as a team, they made sure to make the most of every opportunity that was presented to them.

“It was definitely a lot different, but we still had fun,” Hennen said. “Although we didn’t get to create certain memories like going to state or play in tournaments over the weekend and stay in hotels, it was still cool to see the community support us even though they couldn’t attend many games. We also did a good job of making the most of it, even though we didn’t know if we would get another chance to play.”

Hennen guided the charge for the Vikings volleyball team, as the senior outside hitter amassed a team-leading 209 kills and 191 digs and was second on the team in blocks with 12 while also recording eight service aces. That all paid off, with Hennen being named to the Class A Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association All-State First Team.

Those contributions, along with her display of leadership, have earned Hennen the 2020 Marshall Independent Volleyball Player of the Year.

Hennen was honored by the news and thanked her teammates, coaches and family for their support.

“I’m really grateful and I couldn’t do it without my teammates, coaches and family,” Hennen said. “I’ve been blessed and fortunate to be surrounded by great people throughout my high school career.”

Minneota coach Hayley Fruin added the accolade is fitting to the hard work and constant drive that Hennen has put in throughout the last few seasons.

“It’s very exciting and well-deserving for her. Abby is one of the most competitive kids I’ve coached. She sees the court so well and has such a sense of the game,” Fruin said. “Whenever the game is tight, the ball is going to her. The other team knows this, but she still finds a way to put it away. Any other coach that has had Abby would probably agree that she brings so much confidence out of every player on the court – she’s confident and a competitor which every teammate feeds off of.”

Hennen has been instrumental in leading the Vikings throughout her career, helping Minneota average 28 wins per year the last four years and guide them to three consecutive Class A championship appearances, including winning back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019 before the pandemic shortened their season this past fall.

Hennen began her career in the back row as a defensive specialist/libero before making the transition to the outside hitter position her junior year. Fruin said Hennen has grown a lot during her career, especially as a leader and mentor to the younger players.

“She’s been playing on varsity since eighth grade and you could even see it then; she never gets nervous. She wants the ball and loves to compete. It’s been fun watching the younger players on the team develop into strong and confident players because of her,” Fruin said. “She’s done so much for this program while she’s played but also for years to come because of how she’s developed these younger girls. I couldn’t be more proud of this kid and how she’s handled all adversity, especially this year being her senior year and what everyone has had to go through.”

Hennen said her coaches and teammates have made a huge impact on her and they did a great job of providing a good mix of hard work and fun on and off the floor.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of great coaches. My coaches do a good job of making sure we work hard but also have fun. They let us enjoy our time playing and create memories and give us opportunities to go to larger tournaments and do fun things like escape rooms,” Hennen said. “I’m also really fortunate to have great teammates; when I was younger, I was not as close with the older girls but they still pushed me to be a better player. It was a lot of fun to play with my sister and although she wasn’t there this year, it was a lot of fun to play with the seniors and my other teammates. It’ll be fun to watch them play until they graduate.”

Before she concludes her time at Minneota, Hennen still has to play one final season with the girls basketball team and softball team. With the basketball season starting next week after roughly a month delay, Hennen said she’s looking forward to getting back onto the floor with her teammates and hopefully making another trip to the state tournament.

“I’m looking forward to getting back in the gym; we’ve been on a pause for more than a month so I’m looking forward to getting a chance to play. While it’s not the ideal way, we will still be able to play and things are looking good for a state tournament right now. The goal is to finish at state and hopefully we’ll get a chance to do that.”

As for advice for her teammates coming back next season, Hennen said to enjoy every moment and play like it’s your final match.

“I would say to play every game like it’s your last,” Hennen said. “Especially with a year like this, you just have to make the most of it.”

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