To be the best among the state of Minnesota in volleyball, there are musts a team has to possess.
First comes strong passing. Without a strong first pass on serve receive, an offense is out of system.
Second comes the set-up. Without a strong second pass, an offense cannot reach its full potential with the swing.
Last comes the finish. Putting away key points in matches can determine the winner and loser.
For Chaska, those three areas are constant reminders of what Chaska can be and what they work to be.
No position is more key than setter, the quarterback of the offense, and Chaska has strong leadership and experience in senior Hannah Polk.
"The coaches have built in a lot of expectations with past setters and they have that same expectation with me. I've just tried to learn from those that came before me, working really hard to be the best I can be," Polk, a captain, said.
What helps Polk is a solid group of hitters across the net. Top hitter, sophomore Mallory Heyer, and junior Hanna Thompson, lead the charge. Freshman Ella Christ and sophomore Samantha Schmidt also are back on varsity for a second year.
"It is about those reps. Everyone is different. They all want the ball in a certain spot. Every pass you receive is different. So it's about getting all of the pieces put together before the matches start. Getting on the same page with everyone from the passers to the setter to the hitters," Polk said.
Outside of middle Makayla Ramboldt, the entire starting line-up returns for the Hawks including fourth-year varsity member Anna Doolittle, a captain for the second season.
Doolittle has experience as a libero as well as a hitter, giving Chaska a well-rounded athlete on the court.
"We're pretty well stocked defensively, so I think I'm going to be helping out with blocking, hitting. Wherever they need me. I pride myself in being versatile, being an all-around player. It's nice to know the coaches have the trust in me to put me wherever they need me," Doolittle said.
For Chaska's longtime coach Sue Murphy, she's excited about the potential, but knows it's about execution. It's about results.
That's why she said "being consistent" and "keeping the unforced errors down" are so key if Chaska is going to consider itself a title contender.
That's why these early-season practices, long at times, are so important.
"To build chemistry and work on ball control. We open up with a very strong schedule so we need to minimize our unforced errors right out of the gate so that we can build confidence and do great things this season," she said.
Murphy looks to the leadership of junior libero captain Brier Ziemer and senior defensive specialist Olivia Breyer in the back row.
Polk and Doolittle have been through this before. They know August is important to not only how the season starts, but how it ends.
"We always focus on passing and fundamentals. It's such an important thing to get those bases down. The pre-season is long, but you have to stay focused, stay ready physically and mentally, for what is thrown at us. Our goal this year is to really keep up consistent energy. That's something that has been big this first week," Doolittle said.
Chaska's opening match is at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 22 at Mounds Park Academy in St. Paul. A key road tilt at defending Section 2AAA champion Shakopee follows at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 24.
Wayzata is the first home opponent on Tuesday, Aug. 27 at 7 p.m.