WINONA LAKE – After amassing 56 wins and two national tournament appearances in the last two years, the Grace College volleyball team is ready to continue their success in 2013.
Grace may have just five upperclassmen on the roster, but the team’s returners boast a wealth of court experience.
The Crossroads League will bring its usual competitive grind to the year, but sixth-year head coach Andria Harshman believes Grace can be in the mix for the league title.
The Lady Lancers’ blend of returning talent, exciting newcomers and team unity should put Grace in contention for the league’s top spot.
“Our goal is to be in the mix for the top of the conference in the regular season and tournament. We’ll vie for a position at the top, but we’ll have to battle daily to get there,” Harshman said.
The team forged a close connection over Grace’s preseason mission trip to Costa Rica in early August. According to Harshman the team will reap benefits both on and off the court from the trip.
“Starting off the year in Costa Rica was a great way for the team to bond. We definitely meshed into a group that cares about each other off the court which will carry into the year,” Harshman said. “I’m really excited because we have a bond that will be hard to break. They’re quieter off the court but very powerful and exciting on the court.”
Leading the Lady Lancers on the court in 2013 is senior middle hitter Dana Johnston. The three-time All-League performer earned Second Team NCCAA All-American accolades in 2012 for her dominance at the net.
She will be joined by sophomore Alix Underwood (1.96 kills/set) and outside hitters Calah Kruse and Hannah Clemmons. Kruse (honorable mention All-League) and Clemmons (158 kills, 384 digs) have started since their freshman seasons.
Grace’s freshman class is promising as well. Megan Johnson and Grace Woolsey provide athletic, 6-foot presences at the net for the Lady Lancers, and 6-foot setter Taylor Baird and outside hitter Kaitlin Kerrigan hope to make an immediate contribution to the squad.
Harshman anticipates a quicker version of the team this year on the court, and incoming setter Ellie Harp is a major reason why. Harp, a junior transfer, is “poised, confident and knowledgeable,” according to Harshman.
“Our tempo is a little quicker now. We go at a pretty fast tempo. We are very fast in the middle and outsides,” Harshman said. “If we can expose the middle on the other end, it will open up our offense.”
The team’s increased speed will be evident on the defensive side of the net this year. Annie Salazar leads a quick, experienced backline after she tallied 261 digs and 28 service aces last fall.
But above all Grace is hoping to continue its mission the team started in Costa Rica. “This team values community service and mission service,” Harshman explained. “The girls have taken money out of their wallets in the midst of their college experiences, which says a lot about them. It’s exciting to see what they’ve learned and how they’ve grown already.”
The Lady Lancers begin their season at the Michigan-Dearborn Tournament this Friday and Saturday. Their first home match of the season is on Sept. 4 against Crossroads League foe Taylor.