Lakota East volleyball preview
An earlier than expected loss last postseason has given the Thunderhawks something to prove in 2012.
Lakota East, which was ranked No. 4 in the state in the final coaches’ poll of 2011, saw its 20-game winning streak end in the district final in a 25-23, 25-23, 26-24 loss against school district rival Lakota West, a team the Thunderhawks defeated in straight sets just a month before.
After the match, Lakota West head coach Tracey Kornau said of the upset, “if we play (Lakota East) ten times, we win once. Today, was that once.”
The Firebirds would lose their next match to Mount Notre Dame, a team that went on to win the Division I state championship in 2011 after also losing to Lakota East in the regular season.
“We went through the regular season and we were 20-1, so to end the season 22-2 against a team we beat pretty well during the regular season was disappointing,” Lakota East head coach Casie Garland said.
“But, that is the way it happens sometimes. They came out to play and we didn’t. I think we definitely learned from that match because I think we kind of overlooked them and now we realize that we can’t overlook anybody.”
Garland admitted the team will use the loss to Lakota West as motivation for this season and hopes East can advance further in the postseason in 2012 despite losing six seniors to graduation.
Among that group of seniors, five are now playing in college including Morgan Weinheimer (University of Mississippi), Hannah Berling (Tusculum College), Hannah Sigala (Morehead State University), Lauren Beitel (Otterbein University) and Emily Bostian (Otterbein).
“The luxury we had last year is that we had six juniors as well,” Garland said. “So, we have a good core coming back, but we will definitely miss the ones from last year.”
Leading the core of returning seniors will be Greater Miami Conference Player of the Year Ashley Evans (committed to Purdue University) and GMC first teamer Ali Lake (committed to Ohio University), who was among the conference leaders in kills and assists last season.
Senior Madeline Garda (committed to Bowling Green), who is competing for the libero role, also returns.
“They (Evans and Lake) have really taken on a leadership role, on and off the court,” Garland said.
“They are definitely our biggest offensive threats, but I think people underestimate our defensive ability. With Garda and (junior) Cailyn Wachtel back as our primary passers and defenders, overall defense is one our strengths.”
Another one of the Thunderhawks’ strengths is their depth, as there are multiple starting spots that have yet to be decided as the team gears up for its opener against Turpin and Wyoming next Saturday Aug. 25.
Senior setter Anna Starr is currently a starter, while her freshman sister Le Ann Starr is competing for a starting spot at outside hitter. Another competition, for a starting middle hitter role, is between freshman Spenser Parks and sophomore NaDiah Fry.
Another player who is competing for a starting spot is senior Danielle Fleming, who Garland said has improved tremendously from past seasons.
“This is my third year with these girls and it is exciting to see their growth for the past few years,” Garland said. “Their excitement, their dedication, they really deserve something special to end with. I think everyone’s goal to make this season the best for the seniors and go out with a bang.”
WestChesterBuzz.com will preview the 2012 Lakota West volleyball season on Monday