GLADSTONE - With only three senior starters returning for the 2014 season, the Gladstone volleyball team faces the challenge of developing new players, and discovering a newfound chemistry. Tasks that head coach Liz Gendron doesn't expect her team to pick up right away, but instead, eventually.
"We graduated some of our top seniors last year," Gendron said. "It's going to be one of those years where we probably won't be strong off the bat, but by the end of the season, we should be fairly competitive with the potential talent we have."
Gladstone will look to lean on senior co-captains Lexi Hongisto and Kelsey Fournier. As well as senior returning starter Katie Belongia.
Daily Press file photo
In this file photo from October, 2013, Gladstone’s Summer Demeuse serves the ball in a home match against Escanaba. The Braves will look to rebuild this season after the loss of Demeuse and other seniors to graduation.
"Lexi is going to be our go-to person," Gendron said. "Kelsey, with being on varsity for three years, I'm really going to rely on those two to keep the team together."
One of the fresh faces on Gladstone's roster will be freshman Chasey Williams, who will be handling the setting duties for the Braves, this season. Williams is just one of many new players who will be looking to make an impact this year.
"We'll get her up to speed hopefully, in the next month," Gendron said about Williams. "To the point, where she'll be comfortable taking over. Besides Lexi and Kelsey, we're pretty new at the positions, and we're moving people around.
Aug. 23 - at Sault Inviational.
Sept. 4 - at Stephenson; Sept. 11 - at Norway; Sept. 13 - The Rock at Gladstone; Sept. 18 - Escanaba; Sept. 20 - at Clintonville HS Invite; Sept. 23 - at Menominee; Sept. 25 - Stephenson; Sept. 30 - at Marquette.
Oct. 2 - Kingsford; Oct. 4 - Varsity tournament at NMU; Oct. 6 - Menominee; Oct. 11 - at Escanaba Elks Invitational; Oct. 14 - at Escanaba; Oct. 18 - at Houghton Invitational; Oct 21. - Marquette; Oct. 28 - Negaunee; Oct. 30 - at Kingsford.
"We're still working on a few things. Putting people in different positions, trying them out here and there. I have a general idea of how I want to run it and it'll flow a little bit better. I'll still mix some things up It's a puzzle that you have to put the pieces together. Sometimes it takes awhile to fit those pieces in."
While Gendron and Gladstone attempt to figure out their lineup and rotations, the year-long goals remain the same for the program. In addition to the long-term aspirations, the Braves will focus on working on their chemistry amongst the rotating players.
"We always set goals to always win districts and win the conference," Gendron said. "Those are always a yearly thing. You always want to make it deep into the tournament. But the team right now, we want to set the goal of becoming a good competitive team that's going to gel and play together."
In total, Gladstone sports seven seniors on its roster. However, besides Hongisto, Fournier, and Belongia, game experience at the varsity level is thin.
"Even though we have a large group of seniors, they're still new to the competition," Gendron said. "They didn't play, or they didn't start. It's not that it's new, it's that we have to figure out the younger kids coming in. They don't know each other and we have to figure out attitudes and things like that. It's going to take a lot longer for the team to gel to get to know each other."
Despite the inexperience on the roster, Gendron is optimistic her team will be able to find a way to make it work. So far in the preseason practices, she's seen the potential of what the girls are capable of.
"The potential is there if they want to go out and get it," Gendron said. "There's going to be times where we're really going to be struggling because we're young, but there's going to be the determination that makes the difference for them."
Gendron expects a majority of the other teams in the GNC to be sporting relatively new rosters, as well. She also believes that the conference title will be up for grabs, this year. Something Gladstone hopes it will be able to contend for.
"I think everyone was senior top heavy, besides Kingsford last year," she said. "Stephenson should be coming out strong, like they ended. I think the GNC is going to be pretty strong in competition, with whoever you match up with. I don't think there's going to be one easy match at all, this year. There should be some really great competition coming forward."