Grand Valley returns nearly its entire starting rotation from last season, leaving the Mustangs in a position to continue to show improvement on the court.
They do have big shoes to fill in graduated senior Courtney Hivick, who led the team in kills.
“Courtney left the hole of our go-to girl for attacks,” said Grand Valley coach Erin Smolinski. “She was smart with reading the opponent’s spots. This year’s girls have done an amazing job of picking up where she left off. They have all been stepping up and have been making big plays during this preseason. They are really starting to work as one unit, one machine.”
The Mustangs won just two matches last fall, but with more experience up and down the roster, the Mustangs should be vastly improved this season.
“Finding our rhythm early in sets and keeping on each other’s levels is going to be important for us as a team,” Smolinski said. “With that in line, we can for sure make some waves in the league.”
Grand Valley’s projected starting rotation includes three seniors and four juniors.
The seniors include setter Rhyleigh Ellsworth, defensive specialist/right-side hitter Taryn Guzell, and libero Abby Collins.
Ellsworth recorded 123 digs, 14 kills, and 15 aces. Guzell earned honorable mention all-county honors after recording 187 digs, six kills, and two assists. Collins was named second-team All-Chagrin Valley Conference, and honorable mention all-county and all-district. She recorded 358 digs.
“(Rhyleigh is) the rhythm of our offense,” Smolinski said. “Taryn is our team spirit on and off the floor. “(Abby is) the glue of the defense.”
Juniors Kaelyn Hart, Dixie Miller, Hailey Burn, and Makayla Hopes round out the projected starting rotation.
Hart, a middle hitter, recorded 34 digs, 21 kills, five blocks, and three assists. Miller, an outside/middle hitter, added 33 digs, 15 kills, and 11 blocks. Burn, a defensive specialist, recorded 54 digs. Hopes earned honorable mention all-conference and all-county honors after she notched 116 digs, 31 kills, and a pair of blocks.
“Kaelyn is very smart offensively,” Smolinski said. “We feel like (Dixie) is going to do great things this year. (Hailey) has great ability to read behind the blocks. Makayla is our Thor in the front row.”
Providing depth for the Mustangs are seniors Sydney Bell, Maggie McGovern, and Paige Young, and sophomores Nadia Patterson and Kaitlyn Baumann.
Bell and Young are middle hitters, McGovern and Patterson are right-side hitters, and Baumann can play on the outside, in the middle, or as a setter.
“Sydney is young on varsity experience but has great touches,” Smolinski said. “(Maggie) can play anywhere needed and does a great job. Paige is very versatile in the front row. Nadia thrives defensively. Kaitlyn didn’t get a lot of playing time as a freshman, but she plays with experience.”