Taller Warriors have high hopes for upcoming volleyball season

Sherando volleyball coach James Minney drills his team during a timeout in a match last season. The Warriors should have more height this year and are looking to improve upon last year's team. Rich Cooley/Daily file

STEPHENS CITY – Sherando has a lot of returners back from last year’s volleyball squad, but they will also have something they didn’t have last season – height.

With the addition of a few new players, the Warriors should be a little taller, which should benefit them in many ways. The Warriors have eight returning players from last year’s team. Sherando coach James Minney said he really likes what he’s seen so far from his squad.

“We’ll be a little bit better as far as we have more seasoned players than we did last year,” Minney said. “I think it’s a good mix this year. We’re doing well.”

Mackenzie English, a 6-foot senior, is one of Sherando’s top returners. Another key returner is Alyssa Meyer, a senior setter.

“Alyssa Meyer, our setter, has come a long ways from last year,” Minney said. “I’m very excited about her. She’s doing a lot better this year.”

Heather Walton, a junior, is also returning for the Warriors up front. The new additions of 5-foot-9 sophomore Grace Grzelakowski, 5-foot-9 junior Reagan Newhouse and 5-foot-10 sophomore Madeline See give the Warriors plenty of height and depth at the net.

“That helps us a lot because being short does kind of really hurt you in a volleyball game,” Walton said of the additional height. “Because even though you may be able to play defense and jump it still helps to have the height against other height. So when you’re playing against girls that are 6-foot tall or 6-foot-2 on the other side and then you have girls that are like 5-3 at the net it doesn’t work. We do have some height this year, which is good.

Minney said one of the biggest things having height should do for his squad is allow them to get more opportunities to make blocks or at least make opposing teams have to work harder for their kills.

“The thing is with blocking you don’t get a lot of blocks, but it’s a deterrent,” he said. “It makes them change their decision on what they’re going to do. They can be blocked if they don’t play smart and that’s what you look for. A lot of times if you get stuck with a smaller lineup they can just wind it up and crank it and they don’t have to worry about anything. They’ll have to worry a little bit more this year. They won’t be able to just jack balls down to wherever they want to. So that’s what we’re hoping for.”

One of the players who should benefit from Sherando’s height is Warriors’ senior libero Kaylee Bryant. She said that having so many players back from last year has really helped even early on in the first two weeks of practice.

“It helps with team bonding since we know each other so well and we’re such good friends,” Bryant said. “It helps us on the court a lot.”

One of the biggest challenges for the Warriors will be a tough Class 4 Northwestern District schedule, which includes last year’s Class 4 state semifinalist Millbrook.

“It’s a very tough district,” English said. “I know Millbrook – they have good outside hitters. They’ve been playing on varsity for four years. So that’s always tough competition. They play good defense. James Wood, as well, they have good servers and good height out there, which is pretty hard to play against.”

Minney said he just wants his team to improve on what it did last year. He said last year was the first time playing at the varsity level for most of his squad and he hopes that year of experience will pay off this season.

“We’ll be a lot more competitive than we were last year,” he said. “So that’s what we’re hoping for. We’d like to see a couple more wins at the district level – at least push them and make them fight for the games. Last year it wasn’t a big fight. So I think we’ve played more and that’s been helpful. A lot of them have had a year under their belt for varsity and they know what to expect and they’ve come a long ways.”