By Cara L. Dempski
GLENWOOD CITY — Hilltopper volleyball coach Christa Blaser admitted the 2015 season was not an easy one.
“It definitely wasn’t the best for the win-loss record,” she said of her team.
The Hilltoppers went 0-17 last year, but Blaser does not see it as an unsuccessful season. She is proud of her team for having changed and grown over the season. She said that every year the team takes a few more steps in the right direction and that this year will be no different.
After losing four senior players last year in Morgan Gedatus, Marne Lewis, Samantha Holldorf and Carlee Strong, Blaser has only two returning seniors for the upcoming season. While she’s light on upperclassmen, Blaser has a group of underclassmen she describes as strong and dedicated.
The seniors returning to varsity play are Rebecca Moll and Briana Barstad. Moll remains as a starter at middle block where Blaser expects to Moll to hold her own. Barstad offered strong assistance last year when put in games.
Blaser said of Barstad, “She really pulled through for us last year. I am excited to see her changes and what she can bring to the table this year.”
Juniors Mariah Voeltz, Megan Speiser, and Emily Hill return as starters. Voeltz will be playing middle block/libero and Blaser said she’s eager to see what this season brings for Voeltz.
“She is very strong in the back row, and has the ability to read the ball very well,” Blaser said. “She is one I fully expect to run that back row.”
Speiser returns as a setter and Blaser said she is excited to see what she can do this year in her position. Hill returns as a left, and is described as having more power and control than most of her teammates. Other juniors hoping to contribute to the team this year are Melina Shultz, Biridiana Leandro-Mendez and Cortney Lawson.
As a freshman in 2015, Abby Kremer started as a middle blocker. She and Alexis Curvello return to the team this year as sophomore letter winners. The duo is joined by a substantial group of tenth grade players hoping to earn some playing time this year. This group includes Maggie Wallin, Ashlee Peterson, Erin Davis, Olivia Scalze, Delaney Quinn, Tressa Peskar, Michaela Nyhus, Jatelyn Johnson, Aubry Curvello and Alyssa Multhauf.
There will be 12 players representing this year’s freshman class. Some may see some varsity play, but the majority will play JV or C-team. These players include Kassidi Thompson, Brandi Standaert, Makiah Schultz, Hailey Rutske, Skye Nauer, Leah Magsam, Isabella Lawson, Harli Dikeman, Janessa Demar, Mae Buttles, Isabelle Arbuckle and Isabel Draxler.
This year’s freshmen and sophomore players represent the first two groups to have participated in the youth volleyball program for fourth-graders. Blaser said this experience is evident in their skill level.
Blaser said what sets her team apart is their athletic ability and the off-season training they received. Over the summer, varsity and junior varsity players attended a one-day Badger Volleyball Camp in Madison.
The majority of the team also participated in a Pacesetter Camp for the second year in a row. The camp was hosted by Glenwood City this year, and Blaser called the two coaches that worked with the players phenomenal.
For 2016, the Hilltoppers would like to improve over last season. This will be Blaser’s third year as coach and she said the gains the team has made mentally each season have been immeasurable and now the gains need to manifest themselves on the floor.
“Every year it gets a little better, I am growing and learning right along with the girls,” Blaser said.
Joining Blaser this year for coaching are assistant Beth Davis, who will be coaching junior varsity, Jodi Main will be taking over the c-team, and Bridget Oehlke will be returning to work as a volunteer coach. Blaser described her staff as solid with each person bringing a different element to the gym.
The Hilltoppers open their season with five consecutive road matches. They were in Amery on August 23 and will play at Chetek-Weyerhaeuser tomorrow (August 25), in Owen-Withee August 30, at Ellsworth on September 1 and finish the road swing September 6 at the Cumberland quad. Glenwood City’s first home match and the conference opener is slated for September 15 against Elmwood.
Seniors: Briana Barstad, Rebecca Moll.
Juniors: Mariah Voeltz, Megan Speiser, Emily Hill, Melina Schultz, Biridiana Leandro-Mendez, Cortney Lawson.
Sophomores: Abby Kremer, Alexis Curvello, Ashlee Peterson, Maggie Wallin, Erin Davis, Olivia Scalze, Delaney Quinn, Tressa Peskar, Michaela Nyhus, Jatelyn Johnson, Aubry Curvello, Alyssa Multhauf.
Freshmen: Kassidi Thompson, Brandi Standaert, Makiah Schultz, Hailey Rutske, Skye Nauer, Leah Magsam, Isabella Lawson, Harli Dikeman, Janessa Demar, Mae Buttles, Isabelle Arbuckle, Isabel Draxler.