The Columbus North volleyball team seeks a return to winning ways in 2013.
A year after an inexperienced squad produced a 10-25 season, second-year coach Caitlin Greiner and her Bull Dogs are optimistic that this group will display significant progress.
"We have a lot more experience, and you can see definite improvement," Greiner said. "I like our team dynamic this year as well. The girls worked hard all summer, and you can already see that in their play. We have an advantage going into this season because I think a lot of teams are going to write us off early because of last year's record. I am anticipating us competing at a higher level."
Junior Janelle Peters led CN with 1.97 kills per game last season, and she moves from the middle to the outside this season. She was supported by classmates Makinsey Summa (1.66 kpg) and Karen Wildemann (1.56), although Wildemann moves to full-time setter this season. Senior Tessa Krempel (1.18) and junior Hayley McMahan (1.06) also contributed to the attack.
Junior Alexa Pelley paced the back-row defense with 3.55 digs per game, while Wildemann (2.33), Krempel (1.71), Peters (1.41) and senior Devon Roese (1.37) also provided support in that area. Summa led the front-row defense with 0.48 blocks per game.
Wildemann also was a threat from the service line, posting 0.41 aces per game.
Others set to factor are sophomore Avery Wendel, junior Hannah Vittorio and freshman Maliah Howard.
"The great thing about this season is we have depth in every position," said Greiner, whose squad opens its season at 7 p.m. Thursday at Shelbyville.
"Karen is our primary setter, while Makinsey and Avery are our primary middles. Devon, Hannah and Alexa are battling in the back row. Janelle, Tessa, Maliah and Hayley are competing on the outside. I like that if one player is not performing, we have diffferent options and lineups to go to."
The coach praises Wildemann and Roese for their leadership, while Summa is showing improved strength and ferocity. Vittorio looks good after being sidelined all last season with an injury, while Peters and Wendel are adjusting well to new positions. Howard is a versatile freshman who could see action on the left side, right side or at setter.
"We have put an emphasis on staying mentally focused in every practice and match," Greiner said. "This was a big issue last year because we were so young, so we have been working all summer on putting girls in pressure positions to force them to be mentally strong enough to work through it.
"Last year the struggle was the mental lapses giving away big chunks of points at a time, which ultimately led to getting down by so much we couldn't come back. This year, we need to jump on our competition early so we are not always fighting back from a deficit."
After the opener, the Bull Dogs host Bloomington North next Tuesday (Aug. 27) and Heritage Christian next Thursday (Aug. 29) for the first two of seven home matches. The annual rivalry match with Columbus East is on the Olympians' floor on Oct. 3.
CN also participates in five invitational events prior to the postseason -- Sept. 7 at North Central, Sept. 14 at Jennings County, Sept. 21 at New Albany, Sept. 28 at Muncie Central and Oct. 12 at Columbus East.
Sectional competition is Oct. 24 and Oct. 26 at Bloomington North. Regionals are Oct. 29 at a site to be determined. Semistate action will be Nov. 2 at Seymour. The IHSAA volleyball State Finals will be Nov. 9 at Ball State's Worthen Arena.