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Wrage caps strong career with Winona State volleyball

November 30, 2018
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Dysart Reporter

Dysart resident and former Union athlete Maria Wrage has seen eight years of competitive volleyball come to an end as she took to the court one last time on November 3 as a middle hitter for the Winona State Warriors. 2018 was not an easy season for the senior, as she went down in practice with a bad ankle sprain. Coming off an All-Conference season in 2017, Wrage was looking forward to going out with her teammates as they aimed to return to the NCAA tournament.

"The bad sprain had me out for eight weeks," Wrage said. "Afterwards, I could start practicing again and slowly worked my way back into the rotation. Finally, I earned a starting spot back at the end of the season, but it took a lot of perserverance and obviously the season didn't go as well as I would have hoped."

Long before Wrage played at the college Division II level, however, she was an aspiring athlete looking up to her role models: her older silbings.

Article Photos

Maria Wrage hitting for the Winona State Warriors. Photo courtesy of Craig Johnson.

"I have three older sibings I've always looked up to and followed after growing up," Wrage said. "My sister, Mary, played volleyball in high school and watching her have success with it got me into the sport. We would play together a lot and my interest in volleyball only grew."

Success didn't come right away in junior high for Wrage, but Union volleyball coaches Barry and Brian Jesse, who were coaching Mary at the time, paid attention to the younger Wrage sister.

"Maria was on the B team as a JH player but you could see the potential in her game," Brian Jesse said. "I would bring her up all the time to the younger kids and tell them if they aren't happy with what team they are on, they have got to make a committment to improve if it's important enough to them."

Wrage did not see much playing time on the varsity court in her freshman year under Jesse, but she continued to grow as an athlete. According to Jesse, between her freshman and sophomore year, she grew by leaps and bounds. By her second year in high school, Wrage was a solid starter and helped Union to their third consecutive State berth in 2012.

"Brian and Barry did a great job of preparing me by teaching me technical skills I needed throughout playing volleyball," Wrage said. "They do a great job with the program, turning it around and making it a competitive environment for me and all the players that they have coached."

In her junior and senior season, Wrage was a force to be reckoned within the NICL East. She earned 1st Team All-Conference honors both years while leading the program to two more State berths in 2013 and 2014, tallying 1069 kills abd 336 blocks in her entire Union career. In her final season with the Knights, she also chipped in 338 of 396 serving and 49 aces playing back row as Wrage led a young, tough squad who would go on to have their own success in their careers as well.

"I would definitely say I had a successful high school career," Wrage said. "I'm proud that these teams made it to State all four years, only the second class to do that all four years of their carreers at Union behind the year before us actually. Every season, we had well above a .750 winning percentage. Those conference team selections were great honors."

Meanwhile, Wrage also played club volleyball for CIA and was recruited by colleges. One university which stood out to the Dysart native was Winona State University out of Winona, MN, a NCAA Division II school in the tough Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).

"Winona was a college who was first interested in me and I went to visit their campus," Wrage said. "I fell in love with their beautiful campus and their great facilities. I wanted to be an engineering major in college, so those made the decision easy for me."

Wrage was a contributor to the team right away as a middle hitter, quickly learning the pace of the game greatly differed between high school and college. Sets were lower, serves faster and hits harder to block. In 2016, the Warriors made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.

"There are so many memories over the years, but I can vividly remember facing Minnesota-Duluth in that tournament, which was our first win over them in 30-some years," Wrage said. "It was also our first program win in the tournament. I can remember where it was, how we won and all the details."

The 2017 season proved to be Wrage's best individually in college, hitting 273 kills, blocking 52 shots and posting 32 digs. She was selected to the NSIC 2nd Team All-Conference, but also broke a school record for hitting efficiency, hitting at a .357 efficiency that factors her kills, errors and overall attacks. Despite a 21-8 record, the Wrage and the Warriors did not return to the NCAA tournament due to a strong conference and strong region sending other teams before them. Then the injury came in her senior year, sidelining her for what could have easily been a strong final season for Wrage. Playing in limited minutes, she posted 90 kills and 28 blocks towards the end of the season. Overall in her Winona State career, Wrage tallied 804 kills, 248 blocks, 104 digs.

"She had a great career at Winona State, which plays in the best DII conference in the nation," Jesse said. "[Wrage] started for four years and had her best individual year as a junior being named to the 2nd Team All-Conference and setting a single season hitting efficiency record for Winona. As a senior she had an unfortunate injury that kept her out for a large portion of the season but as was her character she worked hard and kept a positive attitude and played her way back into the starting lineup by the end of the season."

Though it wasn't the season she wanted, that positive attitude Jesse noticed kept Wrage in perspective over her entire career from watching Union make State all four years of her career to seeing Winona State make the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history to setting a school record in her junior collegiate season. All of that, she feels, is attainable for fellow athletes who put in the effort.

"I would say the biggest thing for anyone wanting to be successful and play in college is to get in the gym," Wrage said. "Whenever you can, however you can, do whatever you can to improve on your skills, and coachable. A lot of kids don't understand coaches want athletes willing to work. Make yourself better."

With her collegiate career in the rearview, Wrage is now concentrated on graduating in May with her engineering degree and finding a job as soon as possible. However, she'll never forget what it was like to be a Union Knight or a Winona State Warrior.

"It was an honor to be a Knight and to see that program grow those years," Wrage said. "Even now, Union still competes for a trip to State each year, like this year nearly did. Not all programs have this kind of success, especially in smaller schools like us. I just feel thankful for all those years. I feel grateful I could be part of programs at Union and Winona State that took big strides."



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