As the Lourdes volleyball team is set to take the court for the 2019 campaign, head coach Greg Reitz has a wealth of new faces on his roster.
The Gray Wolves have 13 newcomers, including nine freshmen, on this season’s squad, and Reitz will look to blend the group with seven returnees. Lourdes is coming off a 17-9 season overall in 2018, and a 14-6 mark in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference, finishing in a tie for third place in the league standings.
Lourdes has a great deal of depth on this year’s roster, which will be key if the Gray Wolves hope to contend again in a competitive league.
One of the biggest battles entering the season is at setter, where four players with different characteristics are competing for playing time. Sarah Wisser is a fifth-year senior who ranks ninth on the Gray Wolves’ career assist list with 315 over her first three seasons. She has been used in a variety of roles, including serving and defense, throughout her career as well. Yasmin Assis has transferred to Lourdes for her junior season. She arrives from Indian Hills Community College where she amassed 1,710 helpers in two years.
A pair of talented freshmen are also locked in the battle for the setting spot. Megan Vayansky and Annika Devendorf both played for high-level club programs prior to arriving on campus. With a deep group of setters, Reitz has numerous options heading into the season, including the ability to run both a 5-1 and a 6-2 offense.
Lourdes will have a youthful group in the middle after graduating all three middle blockers from one season ago. While the Gray Wolves may lack experience, they have gained a great deal of size from last year’s blockers. Elise Sanford is a 6-2 freshman and a local product from Perrysburg while Michaela Eisenhauer arrives at Lourdes after playing two seasons at Owens Community College. Cammy Smith is another freshman looking to make an impact in the middle while Rafa Borges, at 6-3, has a long wingspan. Borges has three seasons of eligibility remaining after arriving on campus from Indian Hills with Assis.
Lourdes has a blend of returnees and newcomers on the outside as the season begins. Emily Drenth had 236 kills in her first season at Lourdes, most among all Gray Wolf returnees. The junior added 114 digs and 40 blocks, giving her a strong all-around presence. Allie Hale also returns on the outside for her junior season. She saw more playing time as the season went along in 2018, and averaged more than two kills per set. Vanessa Villarreal is the third returning outside hitter for the Gray Wolves. She got a taste of collegiate volleyball as a rookie, and looks to make more of an impact this year.
Transfer Kennedy Ames arrives at Lourdes from Owens along with Eisenhauer, and will look to bring the experience of winning a NJCAA national championship to the team. A trio of freshmen are also battling for playing time as the year starts. Kylee McBride, Macey Zinser, and Madi Lawson are looking to prove they belong on the court throughout the year.
The Gray Wolf defensive specialists may be the most experienced group on the roster, with the libero jersey up for grabs. Angelica Dippold and Niki Polce both enter their senior seasons looking to finish strong. Dippold ranks second all-time at Lourdes with 1,297 career digs and is ninth with 61 service aces while Polce garnered Second Team All-WHAC accolades as a junior after leading the team with 444 digs.
Sophomore Alli Plasencio saw a great deal of action both as a defensive specialist and as a serving sub in her freshman year, and looks to make an even greater impact this year. The trio of returnees are being pushed by a pair of freshmen, Kailey Holm and Taylor Benedict for their roles on the court.
Lourdes opens the season Aug. 29-31 at the GoSarpy.com Labor Day Classic hosted by Bellevue. The Gray Wolves will begin their challenging schedule with a pair of ranked foes in host Bellevue and Ottawa (Kan.). The home opener is set for one week later, Sept. 6-7, when Lourdes hosts the Gray Wolf Invitational.
The Gray Wolves enter the season with one of the deepest teams across the board that they have had in numerous years. Lourdes will have to battle for every point in a strong league if they hope to return to the top of the standings. If the Gray Wolves serve and pass well, have a more effective block because of the added size, and have setters make good choices and locate the ball well of the hitters, it could be an exciting season for Lourdes volleyball.