Saturday, June 15, 2024

Crestwood out to surprise

Crestwood enters its second season of Chagrin Valley Conference play hoping to surprise some league opponents this fall.

The Red Devils return four starters from the squad that finished 8-15 overall and 4-6 in conference play last season.

“I believe we will surprise some teams with our growth,” said Crestwood head coach Wanda Hoffman, who is in her 31st season. “It will help with this being our second season in this new league.”

Crestwood graduated three key seniors, including Elana Faldowski, an all-around standout, and Madison McBride and Samantha Toke, two key defensive players.

It won’t be easy for the Red Devils to fill those holes but Hoffman is confident her girls are up to the challenge.

“How to fill those holes will be tough but I have faith in the team and the hard work that they have been putting in up to this point,” Hoffman said. “The girls have great chemistry and work hard for each other. I believe this will give them the drive to step up their game and make the last year’s seniors proud.”

Hoffman will lean on a big senior class to provide the leadership and veteran experience on the court.

That group includes setter Kelsey Kulish, who earned second-team All-CVC honors last season after recording 303 assists and 213 digs.

“Kelsey Kulish can play anywhere on the floor,” Hoffman said. “She is capable of anything she puts her mind to. She has an amazing hang time.”

Mikayla Berquist, a utility player, recorded 191 assists and 141 digs and Jynx Bretz finished her junior season with 104 kills and 19 blocks. Madison Dombrowski also returns up front.

“Mikayla Berquist is a very hard worker and always gives her best. She is very encouraging to her teammates,” Hoffman said. “Jynx Bretz really pushes herself. She loves the game and it shows in her game play. She is always focused on meeting her goals. Madison Dombrowski is a senior utility player for us. She will be seen in the front row but if needed can step into the back row and hold her own. Maddy sees the floor very well and that’s what makes her a great hitter.”

Crestwood also returns three seniors on defense in Mackenzie Langford, Gianna Kalista, and EmilyJo Jaeger.

All three can play either libero or defensive specialist.

“Mackenzie Langford is a tough back row player. She is all about the team and leads by example. Mackenzie is very positive and kind to everyone,” Hoffman said. “(Kalista) has so much heart and hustle when it comes to volleyball. She never gives up on a ball. She is always cheering on her teammates, whether on the floor or from the bench. EmilyJo Jaeger is a DS for us. E-Jo works extremely hard. She also runs cross country for our school, so she is always busy and pushing herself to help both of our programs. She is willing to do whatever is needed to help the team be successful.”

Rounding out the Crestwood roster are juniors Aimee Barnauskas and Avrie Shenkel and sophomore Jazymn Stevens.

Barnauskas recorded 184 kills and 108 digs as a utility player. She earned second-team all-conference and all-district honors.

“Aimee Barnauskas is a very strong all-around player,” Hoffman said. “She has a great passion for the sport of volleyball and it shows in her game play. Aimee leads by example.”

Stevens, a setter/hitter, recorded 156 assists and 33 kills in being named second-team all-conference, and Shenkel, a hitter, finished the year with 42 kills and 57 digs.

“Jazmyn Stevens is one of our setters. She moved up halfway through last season as a freshman. She is a student of the game and willing to do whatever is asked of her. Volleyball is where Jazzy excels,” Hoffman said. “Avrie Shenkel will be a force in the front row for us and a strength behind the service line. Avrie pushes for perfection.”

With a solid core of seniors and returning players, Crestwood should be in a good position to compete in the CVC Valley Division.

To do that, the Red Devils have to follow their game plan and put forth a consistent effort in every match.

“We need to work hard for each other and trust each other; working together and being successful in our roles,” Hoffman said. “As a team, we need to keep the pressure on the other team and not make unforced errors. We will have to learn from our mistakes and from each other.”

Steve Hare
Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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