GLADSTONE - There is a lot of fresh faces on the Gladstone Braves volleyball team this season. In the wake of an experienced, senior-dominated squad's graduation departure, it is a move warranted by necessity
Head coach Liz Gendron isn't about to throw in the towel though and is already seeing the positives in her new young team as they are set to open the season Saturday at the Sault Invitational.
"We're young and we're taking things one day at a time. We'll need to catch up and it will take a while, but as long as we go forward and not backwards, we'll be alright," she said.
Keith Shelton | Daily Press
Taylor Phanke, formerly of Gladstone, goes for a kill against Menominee last season. The Braves volleyball team is set to open the season Saturday at the Sault Invitational along with Escanaba.
"We're going to have a bit more power this year. We have some strong hitters on the floor whereas last year we had more knowledgeable players, but we didn't have that power."
Bringing the net-front aggressiveness will be one of two returning juniors, Jessica Beaudry, who will lead the attack along newcomer Summer Demeuse.
"We're looking for Jess Beaudry to power the ball as our No. 1 hitter this year," said Gendron. "She knows everything is on her shoulders to power the ball. Summer and (sophomore) Lexi Hongisto will give me two more strong hitters."
The other three returnees include co-captains Grace Zimmermann and Callie Jensen, as well as middle blocker Ashley Berthuame.
Jensen will step in as the setter while Zimmermann settles into the all-important libero position held last year by now-departed Caitlin Lung.
"Caitlin has been working with Grace in practices a little bit and it's been very helpful in getting her up to speed. Callie is taking over the offense as our setter," said Gendron. "Between Jess Beaudry, Callie and Grace, it's not too bad having two new starters on the floor."
Another newcomer in junior MacKenzie Pardonnet will help shore up the middle.
"MacKenzie is working really hard to play the role that Sammi Eagle had (last season) She is impressing me so much out of the new group coming in.
"We're going to be more of an outside team than in the middle, but we will rely a lot more on our No. 2 and 3 hitters."
Adding depth will be juniors Breanne Aird, MacKenzie Gay and Allison Chenier at outside hitter and Paige Tardiff who will back up Zimmermann at libero. Sophomore Kelsey Fournier will back-up Jensen at setter.
"It's a young bunch, but they are talented and very athletic players," said Gendron.
The Great Northern Conference figures to be more wide-open than in year's past with each team losing solid talent.
"As a while, the GNC lost a great deal of talented players. Marquette had a few who graduated that were very talented. Kingsford probably has the most experience coming back. They were quite young last year," said Gendron.
In Saturday's Sault Invite, Gladstone will be in a pool with Petoskey, Houghton and Rogers City.
"It's always going to be a battle," Gendron said. "Hopefully we'll be able to do some gelling this weekend and get some time on the court and have some fun."
August 18 - at Sault Invitational; 30 - at Stephenson.
September 6 - at Norway; 8 - The Rock Tournament; 13- Escanaba; 15 - at Clintonville Invitational; 18 - at Menominee; 20 - Stephenson; 25 - at Marquette;
October 1 - Menominee; 4 - Kingsford; 6 - at Escanaba Elks Invitational; 9 - at Escanaba; 16 - Marquette; 25 - at Kingsford