By Rich Palzewic
DE PERE – Despite graduating seven seniors from last year’s squad, the De Pere High School volleyball team is optimistic heading into the 2018 season.
With only two returning seniors, the Redbirds will have to rely on their youth if they are to improve on a 5-4 Fox River Classic Conference record.
De Pere finished 20-27 overall a season ago but lost in the WIAA regional finals to Appleton North.
“We had two very tough losses (last season) to Bay Port and Ashwaubenon in five sets,” said head coach Stephen Gladwell, who is a 2006 De Pere graduate and a native of Negaunee in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. “We are fairly young, but we have a lot of energy in the gym. We know that Sheboygan North, Bay Port and Ashwaubenon will be tough. Green Bay Notre Dame always has a very good program, too. We just have to move forward this year knowing we will have this core group together for a few more years. We are very tall as a team.”
Four members of the team are at least 6-foot tall.
The Redbirds will open FRCC play Sept. 6 when they host Notre Dame.
“I think we can compete for a conference title,” Gladwell said. “The FRCC graduated a lot of seniors last year. As long as we bring the energy and focus to every match, we can play with anyone. I will say that I think North is the team to beat, though.”
De Pere will begin the season against the previously mentioned Tritons before hosing Ashwaubenon a week later. They get North and Bay Port in the second half of the conference schedule. The team has three invites to begin the season before diving into FRCC play.
Members of the 2018 team are sophomores Jazlyn Lohman, Brianna Geurts and Anna Heling; juniors Laura Cassidy, Isabelle Jorgenson, Emma DeCleene, Jolie Hnilicka, Amber Aalsma, Kaity Coisman and Mikayla Pietrek; and seniors Marie Olmsted and Natalie Cerrato.
The seven departed seniors from last year are Jessie Geurts (second team, middle hitter), Ashley Barnes (honorable mention, outside hitter), Emily Aalsma, Greta Zahn, Kate Koenig, Catie Flannery and Chanda Royle.
“(Jessie) Geurts brought the power,” added Gladwell. “When we were in system, we tried to use her as often as possible. She was a smart player and is now playing at St. Norbert College. She had an awesome connection with (setter) Emily (Aalsma). With Ashley (Barnes), we knew we could count on her. She had 22 kills last season against Manitowoc and was that consistent player for us.”
Editor’s note: Read this week’s Hot Corner on the De Pere volleyball team by clicking HERE.
2018 De Pere volleyball
Aug. 24-25: @Sun Prairie Invite – 10:00
Sept. 1: @Green Bay Notre Dame Invite – 9:00
Sept. 6: * Green Bay Notre Dame – 7:00
Sept. 13: * Ashwaubenon – 7:00
Sept. 15: @Watertown Invite – 9:00
Sept. 20: * @Green Bay Preble – 7:00
Sept. 21-22: @West Bend East Invite – TBD
Sept. 25: * Green Bay Southwest – 7:00
Sept. 27: * @Sheboygan North – 7:00
Oct. 2: * Sheboygan South – 7:00
Oct. 4: * @Manitowoc Lincoln – 7:00
Oct. 6: De Pere Invite – 9:00
Oct. 9: * Bay Port – 7:00
Oct. 11: * @Pulaski – 7:00
* Indicates FRCC game