They say defence wins championships and that's where the focus will lie for the Muskie senior girls' volleyball team this season.
Head coach Duane Roen knows a strong defence is paramount to any success his squad will enjoy this year in NorWOSSA play, which officially kicked off yesterday against the host Kenora Broncos (the outcome wasn't known as of press time).
“Defence wins games so we will be focusing on serve receive, passing, and our read/react speed,” he noted.
“Our offence is strong and we are aggressive, but we need to focus on minimizing errors on our side,” Roen stressed.
Moving up from the junior ranks this season are Grace Petsnick, Jamie Spencer, Katrina Slomke, Carmen Hebert, and Simone Payne, who all played vital roles in nabbing NorWOSSA gold for that squad last season.
Roen knows the attributes those players will bring bodes well for the senior squad.
“Grace Petsnick is a talented all-around athlete and brings strength and agility as a left-side or middle blocker,” he lauded.
“Jamie Spencer is a tall, strong right-side block and setter," he added. ”She is also versatile enough to also take the middle and left-side roles, if necessary.
“Katrina Slomke is a tall middle blocker that is learning her role quickly and should provide a solid defensive barrier.”
Roen also noted Hebert will be the team's libero this season but feels she will be challenged to deal with the increased speed and power at the senior level.
“But I think [she] will adapt well as she has sound fundamentals,” he remarked.
Roen also feels Payne is a skilled player who brings a lot of resources to the team and has potential as a left-side, setter, or libero.
Returning to this year's squad, meanwhile, are Pasquel Shortreed, Gwen Macdonald, Alina Eldridge, Alex Spuzak, Hailee Barnard, Rhonda DeGagne, and Samara Payne, who all helped the black-and-gold garner a 6-2 record last season before falling 3-0 to Kenora in the NorWOSSA final.
“Pasquel Shortreed returns after a summer filled with volleyball,” noted Roen.
"She earned a spot on Team Manitoba and trained in Winnipeg for a month, culminating with the Canada Cup tournament in Richmond, B.C.
“Pasquel brings offensive speed, defensive grit, and leadership to the group,” he added.
“Gwen Macdonald is a returning middle blocker who has been training with our fall club and has certainly raised her level of game play,” Roen continued.
“Alina Eldridge returns in the setting role and may see some time at libero,” he revealed.
“She has a strong serve receive and back row defence skill set.”
As for Spuzak, she will be returning in the left-side position this season.
“She dealt with injury last season and has been strength training to reduce her injury potential this year,” said Roen.
"She is also an all-around talented athlete, offering her skills where needed.
“Hailee Barnard returns in the left-side position," he remarked. "Although short in stature, she has been training and has an impressive vertical, making her an offensive threat.”
DeGagne will assume a left-side or middle position this season.
“Rhonda's blocking height and reach are her offensive positives and she is coachable, learning more every practice,” Roen enthused.
“Samara Payne returns as a right-side but may also find time as a libero,” he added.
"Samara is a talented all-around athlete, bringing speed and strength to the right side.
“I expect the seniors to lead by example," Roen stressed. "But I believe the new players will adapt quickly, making this potentially a very strong team.”
Heading into yesterday's match in Kenora, Roen said his players would be working on defence and serving while also being introduced to the team's offensive plays.
“Also, [we will be] determining athlete placement and learning to gel as a team,” he noted.
“Staying mentally strong in the big games, and being able to fight through adversity and injury, will be key to success this season,” Roen continued.
“This is a talented group of athletes with great potential," he lauded. "I am excited to see where our journey takes us.”