Hurricane spikers maintaining excellence after state title
The on-court success hasn't changed this season for Marian Central Catholic, but the feel is different.
The Hurricanes, long a state volleyball powerhouse, got off to an 18-1 start this season in the shadow of last season's big run to the Class 3A state championship.
Hurricanes head coach Laura Watling said in an email interview that there is added pressure that comes with being a defending state champion. However, she said her players are embracing that stature – and rising to the challenge.
“I think it's exciting to see our team start the way that we have," Watling said. "You never really know how the year will play out, and with expectations being so high, I love that the girls have responded to that pressure well so far.”
Having a great deal of experienced players back from last season's squad, which went 39-3, helps that cause a great deal. Ten Hurricanes who were a part of the 2015 team are suiting up again this season, including five senior starters: setter McKayla Wuensch, outside hitter Sydney Nemtuda, libero Meghan Schwallie, middle blocker Rachel Noonan and right-side hitter Lauren Hanlon.
In 2015, Nemtuda and Hanlon were first and third, respectively, on the team in kills. Through this season's first 19 matches, Nemtuda led the squad with 133 kills, while Hanlon was right behind with 131. Wuensch, who had 1,053 assists last season for an average of 11.1 assists per set, has 396 assists this season in 19 matches for an average of nine per set.
Schwallie leads the team in digs with 210, which already eclipses her 2015 total of 176. And Noonan, last season's total-block leader with 88, topped this year's team with 44.
Watling cited senior outside hitter Brenna Koch as a key contributor to this year's squad. Koch didn't start on last year's team, but this season is third with 88 kills.
“The biggest strength of our team is that we have loads of chemistry and team camaraderie with the majority of our team having many years of playing volleyball together,” Watling said. “On top of that, we have an explosive offense with power and speed from all areas on the court. I do believe that our offense is even more dynamic than last year.”
Last season, the Hurricanes averaged 13.5 kills per set and had a .335 hitting percentage, this year the team is averaging 11.8 kills per set but the hitting percentage is up to .378.
Even though the Marian Central program has made making at least the sectionals an annual tradition going back to the mid-2000s, Watling said any team poses a threat to another Hurricanes state title.
“In the postseason, it's a new beast where every match is the most important match that you play,” Watling said. “You can never afford to overlook any opponent.”
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