RAPID RIVER - The Rapid River Rockets are out to prove that perhaps offense can win district titles. The volleyball team has run into a dynastic Engadine team each time they've gotten to a district final the last eight years. Now they'll try to knock the Eagles off their district perch without the benefit of an established defense.
"This would be Engadine's ninth title in a row if they win this year. It's a heck of a winning streak and it's time someone knocks them off," said Rockets coach Lisa Kanyuh.
The Rockets will have no shortage of offensive firepower when they take to their home floor for the first time this season tonight against North Central.
Reigning Central U.P. conference MVP and first-team Skyline conference pick, Neena Brockway leads a pack of five returnees along with fellow senior Averi Kanyuh, who was first-team CUP and second-team Skyline last season. Brockway will reprise her role as the team's top outside hitter. She is also the top server on the team. Kanyuh will step in as another outside hitter on the team and will also see time at setter.
"Averi is a strong outside hitter. We didn't run her in that position last year but we moved her up to fill (departed) Heather Sanderson's shoes. We need someone to step up in that role," said Kanyuh. "Brockway is a strong server and had over 100 aces last season."
Also returning for the Rockets are seniors Rikki Stropich and Kristy Kerstner who will hold down the Rockets net-front up the middle.
Aug 30 - North Central
Sept. 6 - Munising; Sept 8 - The Rock tournament at Gladstone; Sept. 11 - Triangular against Mid Peninsula, Big Bay de Noc; Sept. 13 - Bark River-Harris; Sept 15 - at Articatz Tournament; Sept. 17 - at Forest Park; Sept. 20 - North Dickinson; Sept. 22 - at Pentwater Invitational; Sept. 25 - at Munising; Sept. 27 - at Bark River-Harris.
Oct 4 - Triangular at Superior Central with Carney-Nadeau; Oct. 9 - Triangular against Superior Central, Carney-Nadeau; Oct 11 - Forest Park; Oct. 16 - at North Dickinson; Oct. 20 - Menominee County Inviational at Stephenson; Oct. 23 - Triangular against Mid Peninsula, Big Bay de Noc; Oct. 25 - at North Central.
Returning after a one-year absence is senior Miranda Hebert who, along with returning senior Mia Hill, will lead the defense.
"We'll try Miranda at libero. She's very good at reading where the opposing hitters want to go. Mia will also play some defense and we'll make adjustments as we move along throughout the season. They're both solid passers as well," said Kanyuh.
Seven juniors will make the jump from last year's jayvee squad. Hannah Micheau and Savannah Stenlund will play key roles at net-front and outside hitter respectively.
"I'm hoping Micheau can move into the setter position with Stenlund at weakside hitter. She needs to run backslides that we're working on. Hopefully our passing will work well enough that we can keep people off-balance."
Other juniors include Joellen Roberts, Josie Miller, Veronica Schram, Erin Anderson, Cassidy Gould and Katrina Palzat.
"We have some height this year with Veronica, Cassidy and Katrina on the outside," said Kanyuh. "It's not a very strong defensive team as far as not having more than one person that can play defense"
Kanyuh called out the usual suspects as far as conference roadblocks.
"Forest Park breeds success year after year. I always expect them to be strong and North Dickinson isn't too far behind," she said. "Bark River-Harris could have a bunch of seventh and eighth graders but they always play us tough and I don't expect anything less. Same thing with Superior Central, I expect they'll give us problems this year.
"I think right now, it's anyone's game. Teams that were very strong last year are getting beat early on by teams that usually don't dominate. It's pretty wide-open."