Strengths of young varsity group include athleticism, leadership
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
A few practices. A scrimmage. Back to back meets. The 2019 fall season for the varsity volleyball team from Grayling High School is now underway.
The program started its official practice sessions/tryouts on Wednesday, August 14. The volleyball teams are practicing at the Grayling Middle School due to the current Viking Activity Center construction project at Grayling High School. The Viking Activity Center, an addition to the school’s physical education facilities, is linked to the current gymnasium.
Tim Zigila, coach of the varsity squad, said tryouts were competitive this year due to a large number of varsity slots available.
“It’s going good,” Coach Zigila said regarding his team’s first week of practice. “I think we had one of the most competitive tryouts we’ve ever had. On varsity we only had four returning players because we were senior heavy. It just left a lot of spots open for kids to compete for. We have a pretty big sophomore class and we have a real solid freshman class that came in.”
Overall numbers for the program are down a little bit, including at the varsity level, Coach Zigila said.
“We had 29 kids try out for three teams. We’re down to 27,” Coach Zigila said last Wednesday.
The program will have three teams this year: varsity, junior varsity A, and junior varsity B; it’s the same format as last year. It offers more flexibility than having a JV team and a freshman team.
“Overall I’m happy at all three levels with the volleyball play of all the kids. We have a lot of kids coming back with experience. Although our numbers are down we have some quality kids,” Coach Zigila said.
The varsity group, as of last Wednesday, had two seniors, three juniors, three sophomores, and one freshman.
The program participated in camps this summer in an effort to gain experience and get ready for the start of the season, including its annual All-American camp in early July.
“That was great,” Coach Zigila said. “We had 22 high school kids come to that camp. We had another 20 middle schoolers come. That was a really good way to start our summer. It was pretty intense.”
All-American volleyball players, some with professional volleyball experience, coach the camp, offering participants instruction from “someone who’s made it to that highest level,” Coach Zigila said.
“It’s just a good example for our girls. It’s paid off. Our play is accelerated after that camp,” Coach Zigila said.
The Vikings also competed in a camp at Ferris State University, an event that included a “34-team team challenge at the end,” Coach Zigila said.
“We got to see a variety of teams,” Coach Zigila said. “We’re communicating well. For the most part, we’ve been together all summer.”
Strengths of this year’s team? Athleticism and leadership, according to Coach Zigila.
“I think our strengths are we’re very athletic. Most of the girls are playing two or three sports, all good athletes,” Coach Zigila said. “Our other strength would be with our upperclassmen, that leadership. (Allie Moffit), a four-year starter, Ellie (Wagner), a three-year starter, (Alison Brown) expanding into that role coming in as a junior.”
After five days to practice, the team had a scrimmage slated for Wednesday, August 21, at Johannesburg-Lewiston. After a normal Thursday to practice, the Vikings had back to back road meets slated for Friday, August 23, at Gaylord St. Mary and Saturday, August 24, at Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart.
Coach Zigila said the key to the team’s success this year will be in its passing.
“If we don’t pass well we’re not going to play well; we’re going to struggle. We gotta have that pass. That’s really what we’ve been focusing on, passing and working on serve receive,” Coach Zigila said.
“I just want to see us grow as a team,” Coach Zigila said. “Because we are short on experience we really need to see some solid growth out of all the girls. Looking for leadership from (Emma) Mertes, (Allie) Moffit, Ellie (Wagner), and Alison (Brown) to help those younger girls along.”
The varsity team will play at Cheboygan on Wednesday, September 4. Grayling will host Gladwin on Monday, September 9.
The squad’s first Lake Michigan Conference meet of the 2019 season is slated for Tuesday, September 17, at Charlevoix.
Coach Zigila said he expects the league to be a challenge this year.
“As an overall team goal I’d like to see us top three in the league. League is always tough. All the teams in the league are pretty decent,” Coach Zigila said.
Coach Zigila said the program is also trying to set the tone for girls’ sports by improving the overall culture.
“The other thing we’re working on, we’ve been working on as a coaching staff, is changing the culture a little bit, really getting these girls thinking about being better teammates, carrying it over to other sports, hopefully having more success in other sports. We’re just working on some culture things and I think this is a good group to do that with,” Coach Zigila said.