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Marion volleyball's front line reflects bond

Staff writer

With five hitters who have extensive history, Marion volleyball’s front line boasts depth, and the experience to match.

“We all have different roles,” Anne Baliel said. “Whenever one of us is hitting, we’re all ready for the block to come back or forth. It’s really useful to have five people, because we can hit from the back row, depending on where the set goes. We can fake out the other team.”

The five netters, comprised of seniors Baliel, Chisholm Waner, Laura Savage, Megan Neufeld, and junior Jayden May, didn’t all start as hitters.

A prime example was May, who spent her freshman and sophomore years as the team’s libero before coach Kris Burkholder made the switch this year.

“It is an adjustment for some people,” Jayden May said. “Laura’s on the outside now, but she has experience covering the middle. I was a libero last year and I’m on the front row now, so mine is completely different.”

Their versatility ensures the girls are comfortable outside their designated roles.

It’s a luxury the team can have because of its defense. An influx of passers and capable back line players this year means players like May and Waner can focus on their play at the net.

“I think it’s a better balance than we’ve had in the past,” Waner said. “Some years we were so stacked on passing, then other years we had like two hitters.”

It also helps that Burkholder is open to shifting players around.

“I think she’s open to taking suggestions, like when I think we should move here or double-block there,” Neufeld said.

Playing a variety of positions means not everyone will rack up a lot of statistics. That makes it even more important to have mental fortitude to fall back on, Baliel said.

“I think you just have to keep your head up at all times,” she said. “Even if you make mistakes, you can’t show you’re down because your teammates will be down with you.”

Social distancing when not on the court makes communication between players even more important during points. It also is different because there is a limited crowd to provide an energizing atmosphere, Savage said.

“You definitely notice when it’s quiet,” she said. “That’s when it’s the hardest.”

The girls often hang out together, at school or one of their houses. That provides the teammates a type of familiarity they can’t get at practice.

While they used to have team dinners, this year it tends to be more off-the-cuff than scheduled events.

“It’s not really organized by people, but we tend to hang out on our own a lot,” Waner said.

Last modified Sept. 17, 2020

 

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