Versatile offense will be key for MFL MarMac volleyball team

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Members of the MFL MarMac volleyball team include (front, left to right) Abby Schellhorn, Lexy Johnson; (middle) Lakota Morrissey, Mackenzy Ruff, Aleyna Rodriguez, Miranda Lang; (back) head coach Angela Adney, Carlie Jones, Anna Stoddard, Karli Tilson, Riley Moreland, Kayden Gillitzer, Brooke Gillitzer and assistant coach Stephanie Michel. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

The MFL MarMac volleyball team is under new leadership this season, with Monona native and MFL MarMac alumna Angela Adney taking over as head coach.

Adney has led volleyball programs at neighboring school districts for the past three years. She said much of her skill set and knowledge stems from playing on a variety of coed volleyball leagues around the area and learning from elite players and coaches from other communities.

“Now I’m excited to be back and to make an impact in my hometown,” she shared.

So far, Adney has been impressed with how the Bulldogs, who were Upper Iowa Conference champions a season ago, communicate positively between one another.

“The encouragement they have for one another, the time they take to help each other and the way they celebrate successes together is so encouraging as a coach,” she said. “I see that they value team unity and want to develop a strong bond together. Communication can make or break a team and I think we’re off to a great start.”

Another key to success: a strong offense between front row hitters and back row attacks. Adney said MFL MarMac has many options around the court to keep the offense ever changing. The team will also have a strong defense between its tall blocks and quick back row.

The Bulldogs lost some of last year’s biggest contributors to graduation, but several returning players are poised to fill those roles. Senior Lexy Johnson is back as libero this season, and Adney credited her as an incredible leader to both upper- and underclassmen.

“She sets the tone for practice with her energy and enthusiasm,” Adney commented.

Junior Riley Moreland is a middle hitter with height and power. According to her head coach, she has been a great leader to her teammates and encourages them to reach for their potential every day.

Another junior, Lakota Morrissey, will step up as a setter this season. 

“There is a lot of pressure sitting on the shoulders of a setter, but if anyone can do it, it’s her,” said Adney. “Quickness, anticipation and accuracy will all come as she plays the position more. I think she will be a key player for us as the season gets underway.”

Kayden Gillitzer is a senior returning to the court after running cross country last fall. Her height and power as a hitter will be beneficial, noted Adney, and she will play left side hitter as the season begins. 

“I have great hopes that her blocking game will be as successful as her attacks,” the coach added.

Juniors Abby Schellhorn and Miranda Lang will be back row specialists with their quick anticipation and strong control of passes. Sophomore Brooke Gillitzer, senior Mackenzy Ruff and junior Carlie Jones will add power to the MFL MarMac offense from the right side, while senior Aleyna Rodriguez and junior Karli Tilson will attack from the left front and middle hitting positions.

“Anna Stoddard is a senior with a strong left-handed swing who will play an important role on the right side,” Adney continued. “Her height will also be an advantage for us in this position to help stop our opponent’s strong side hitters from scoring.”

As the season progresses, Adney said her players will work to grow confidence in their own abilities. 

“I see a lot of girls who are nervous of making a mistake and, as a result, play too timidly. As they get more comfortable with taking chances in practice, they will begin to realize what they are capable of doing and, in time, will be more aggressive on the court,” she stated.

They also need to work on trusting their teammates. Adney said each player has a vital role on the court and, when they each take care of their job, success happens. Now, though, many players want to step up and cover another player’s responsibility, then leaving their own roles unattended. 

“This leads to miscommunication and errors,” she remarked. “Trusting their teammates is something that takes a while to learn, but once they do, it will make a big difference in the outcome of our games.”

As that trust develops, Adney looks forward to seeing each individual athlete’s talents come together for a greater purpose. 

Most importantly, however, she wants the girls to have fun.

“I want them to be excited about the season, excited to take chances, excited to unlock their potential, excited to set goals and excited to strive for greatness,” Adney said. “I am excited for them to leave their doubts behind and start believing that they can accomplish anything.”

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