By Alicia Dziak
With the fall sports season underway, three levels of SGI girls’ volleyball are hitting their way through another successful season.
The modified squad is coached by Stephanie Sullivan, a fifth grade teacher at Springville Elementary, who has been coaching for seven years.
This youngest volleyball team has a roster of 15 girls— seven returning eighth graders, five new eighth graders and three seventh graders. While they haven’t had a game yet, the girls have been busy getting ready for the season ahead.
“We haven’t had a game yet and practice daily,” Sullivan said. “Eden was our only loss last year so this year we are coming back with a vengeance! Our schedule has changed a bit so Iroquois is new this year. We also play Eden, Holland, JFK, and Pioneer.”
As far as team goals for the season? “I want the girls to experience a true love for the game,” Sullivan stated. “It’s such a great feeling working together as a team out on the court.”
She added that “instilling communication skills, a desire to want to do your best, and maintaining focus are all goals (serving over hand too! ) this year.”
Sullivan hopes her team will learn to leave everything out on the court. “This is the first year for many girls to play an organized sport,” she said. “It’s hard to put yourself out there, especially when you’re in 7th and 8th grade! Not worrying about what you look like and making mistakes in front of others is hard to overcome. So is consistently serving over the net!”
Among the team’s key players, “Jill Roggie was nominated by the girls on the team as one of our captains this year. She has great leadership qualities and is always helping guide players both on and off the court. Her speed and communication is why she will be a key player this year. Rachel Stressinger was also nominated as a captain for our team. Her focus and drive sets a high expectation for our team this year. Marie Emerling and Olivia Schindler are expected to be strong at the net while Melanie Barry, Rebecca Kreitzbender and Kailea Sullivan provide accurate passing. Meghan Rehrauer and Katelyn Mesch will be strong servers.”
The modified girls’ first game is against Pioneer on Sept. 24.
Coach Bob Gainey, a PE teacher at Springville Elementary, leads the JV girls.
“Our goals for this season are to improve each and every day, become a closer knit group as the season progresses, and take pride in the effort and energy level we bring during our matches,” explained Gainey, who is in his 7th year coaching at this level.
The roster is made up of 12 girls— two 8th graders, six freshman and four sophomores, who are the only veterans to JV.
Gainey lists key players as Morgan Christ, Emily Ehlers, Abby Stressinger, Sara Ehlers, and Alyssa Hunter. “All of these girls bring a number of different skills to the table,” he said. “Morgan is an excellent front row player whose very creative around the net and is one of our best communicators. Emily is setting for us this year and she has a great pair of hands. She does an excellent job of passing out of the back row and she sets up her hitters nicely at the net. Abby is a very steady player from all areas of the floor. She’s able to hit from both spots on the floor and is one of the best passers on the team. Sara is an 8th grader, but you would never know it. She has been serving the ball at a high level in critical junctures of our matches and is a powerful outside hitter at the net. Lastly, Alyssa is our second setter and she is a great communicator on the floor. She’s a solid player no matter where she is on the court.”
Gainey noted that the team has had a very challenging schedule to start the season. “Currently we are 3-0 and have faced very stiff competition from Ellicottville and Alden,” he said. “I think every opponent poses different obstacles on a nightly basis; just looking ahead, we have Alden, Eden, and Ellicottville so those will be good tests for our team.”
And what does Gainey see as his team’s improvement areas? “Our biggest challenges right now would be consistency with passing out of the back row,” he stated. “It’s something we are fully capable of being very good at but it’s been inconsistent to start the season (though I’m very confident we will fix this.) Also, consistently getting our hitters involved throughout the night and not just passing the ball over the net.”
The JV girls face Cleveland Hill on Friday, Sept. 16 and Eden on Thursday, Sept. 22.
SGI’s Varsity squad is made up of 11 girls—five seniors, three juniors and three sophomores. Only three are returning starters.
“Our goal (this season) is to finish in the top three of Class B2 schools,” said coach Kristin Hughey, an SGI middle school science teacher who’s in her 12th year coaching Varsity volleyball.
Hughey lists Caroline Roy, a strong offensive hitter who leads in blocking stats, Sydney Rosati, a key defensive player, and Meadow Wittman, a setter who is new to varsity, as key players on this season’s team.
The girls will face new teams this year as SGI is now a B2 school. “We’re not familiar with many of the teams on our schedule this season,” Hughey explained. “Eden is the exception. We lost to them in playoffs last year…Eden when on to win states! They should be our toughest competition this season.”
Hughey sees the season’s biggest challenge as building confidence. “There is different talent on our team this year with mixed levels of experience. We need to learn to play together and capitalize on our team strengths instead of relying on individuals,” she said.
The Varsity Lady Griffs currently hold a 1-1 record. Next games include Cleve Hill on Friday, Sept. 16 and Holland on Sept. 20.