Lakota West volleyball preview
Throughout its 15-year history, the Lakota West volleyball program has many accomplishments including four seasons of winning 20 or more matches, five district championships and five Greater Miami Conference regular season titles.
However, this fall, the program will be able to do something that it has never done before – play six seniors.
“We haven’t had that (depth) before. It definitely serves you well come tournament time,” said Tracey Kornau, who has been Lakota West’s only head volleyball coach in its history.
“I think it is one of those things that separates a good team from a great team.”
Leading the large group of seniors is outside hitter and Furman commit Annie Bierman, who finished second in the GMC in kills last season and was named to the all-GMC first team.
“They understand that they will all provide senior leadership, but one of them has to be the spokesperson on the court and Annie Bierman has assumed that role,” Kornau said. “She can flat out play. It is very easy to follow her example because she plays so well, but is also a good vocal leader.
“She is one of the best players in the city if not in the state.”
Bierman will be replacing last season’s senior leaders in libero Mel Stewart (NKU) and middle hitter Corri Muha (Georgetown College).
“This year, I am definitely going to have to step up and be one of the main leaders on the court because we lost Mel and Corri and they were such strong leaders for everybody,” Bierman said. “It is going to be big shoes to fill, but I think I can do it.”
Stewart and Muha, who Kornau believes will both be impact players in college, left a lasting mark on the Lakota West program – training their teammates last fall so that they would be ready to start in 2012.
According to Kornau, it wasn’t uncommon for Stewart to pull Delany Wilder aside or for Muha to coach up teammates Rachel Cogan (Sr.), Gabby Blados (Jr.) and Lexi Duello (Soph.) on how to play the middle and rightside hitter positions.
Wilder, now a senior, is competing with fellow classmate Sara Rudokas for the libero and defensive specialist positions. Returning players, Cogan, Blados and Duello are competing to play the middle and rightside hitter positions.
Blados, who is the 6-foot-3 daughter of former Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman Brian Blados, had a productive club season and already has offers from Buffalo, High Point and Clemson.
Meanwhile, senior outside hitter Mandy Stanislovaitis and junior setter Allie Muha return as starters. Stanislovaitis will team up with Bierman to form a nice 1-2 punch on the outside.
“They are one of the most powerful duos, as far as outside hitters go, in the area,” Kornau said. “We won’t lose anything when one rotates out and the other rotates in.”
Also returning, senior Donna Street is extremely versatile and can sub in at middle and rightside hitter, as well as at setter. Kornau says of her senior backup, “on other teams she would be starter and a superstar.”
Last season, Lakota West won its second consecutive district title and finished 18-8 overall and 8-1 within the GMC. The Firebirds will begin its season at home Tuesday, Aug. 28, against McAuley at 7 p.m.