Josh Wastvedt is hoping to put the Burnsville volleyball program back on the map.
Wastvedt is the Blaze's 11th new head coach in the past 21 years and he takes over a team that has had a 3-42 record in the South Suburban Conference (1-8 last year) over the last five years.
Burnsville has a 7-9 playoff record since making state in 2009. The team hasn't had a winning season since 2013, finishing 12-17 overall last fall.
"We are looking to redefine Blaze volleyball and put us back on the map as a team that competes highly in the SSC," Wastvedt said. "We have such talented girls and they have a huge drive to compete. These girls work very hard and love being on the court.
"They're very selfless and humble and have been very willing to try different and new things in practice to better the team and themselves," Wastvedt added. "I've been very impressed with the control they have. Our goal is to host in the quarterfinal round of our Section 6AAA tournament at least. We have the talent to get there. Now it's just putting the little things together and working to improve every day."
The Blaze has not advanced past the section quarterfinals since making the state field in 2009.
Wastvedt has 14 years of coaching experience, including the last two years at Garrison-Max High Schools in North Dakota. Prior to Garrison-Max, Wastvedt was the assistant women's volleyball coach at NJCAA Division II Bismarck State College.
Wastvedt was also a head coach at Williston and Central Valley High Schools in North Dakota. He has also been involved as a camp coach at various programs, including the University of Texas, North Dakota State and the University of Jamestown.
Consistency at the top of the program has been a problem for the program since 2009 when Ryan Dehnel coached Burnsville to a third-place finish at state. But he stepped down after that season.
After that, Burnsville had four head coaches — Kim Hook (2010-12), Kari Raymond (2013-14), Joanna Weber (2015) and Beth Raebel (2016-18).
The Blaze has made the state field three times in their history. The first two were under coach Sharon Roos (1996 and 1998). Roos stepped down after six years as coach in 1998 after a 25-win season.
Burnsville had four head coaches between Roos and Dehnel. They included Liz Jarnigan (1999-2000), Dan Kuklock (2001), Michelle Miller (2002-05) and Erin Horne (2006).
Back from last year's team are seniors Julia Dam, Megan Hjermstad and Theresa Glasgow and juniors Shannon Murray and Emma Fretheim.
Murray is the team's setter, while Hjermstad will start as the defensive specialist. Dam and Fretheim are outside hitters, while Glasgow will play in the middle.
Juniors Kara Klavins and Anna Phommasengkeo also got some varsity time last year on the back row, while ninth-grader Corrina Benson looks be another outside hitter. Ninth-grader Kiylah Franke also figures into the mix.
"This team can and loves to defend," Wastvedt said. "Their ball control is so much fun to watch, which makes me even happier as I'm a defensive minded and ball control-oriented coach. We do a lot of passing and defense in practice and that's been super fun to watch and develop our own system with the skill set these girls already have.
"It's really exciting watching these girls rally and making some solid defensive plays," Wastvedt added. "I'm excited for the potential of this team."
Burnsville opens the season Aug. 22 at St. Louis Park in a battle of Section 6AAA foes. The Blaze are at Minneapolis South, another section team, Aug. 27. Both start at 7 p.m.
Burnsville's first two home matches are against Albert Lea Aug. 29 and Edina (a section team) Sept. 3.
The conference opener is Sept. 12 versus Rosemount. The are four SSC teams ranked in the preseason Class 3A poll — No. 1 Eagan, No. 2 Lakeville South, No. 7 Prior Lake and No. 8 Lakeville North.
It's not easy to rebuild in the SSC, which has been the toughest league in the state. It has won six of the last nine state titles.