When Andrean coach Grant Bell challenged Vanessa Brown to take over the back row this season, the 59ers’ senior co-captain was ready.
“I’m kind of used to it, because I always wanted to be a libero in a way and I’ve always wanted to play left back,” Brown said.
The graduation of vocal libero Christina Dal Santo off last year’s Class 2A state title team created the opportunity for Brown.
“Vanessa was used to playing middle back and letting Christina pick up all she could out of left back, and now I’ve put that duty on her, making sure no ball hits the ground,” Bell said.
Brown also knew she needed to work on becoming what Bell called “a terminator” and put the ball away when needed.
“With Jenna (Dal Santo) in the front row, she was our main terminator last year,” Brown said. “I really wanted to do that and hit as hard as she did. I looked up to her, learned a lot from her, and really wanted to play like her. I definitely have improved from last year.”
Brown credits her terminating ability to her Epic United 17 Elite club team.
“I feel that really helped me improve,” she said. “My club coach expected me to terminate the ball and be the main back row player. I can handle it, and it feels comfortable.”
Brown worked hard during the offseason on improving her blocking and serving skills, too.
The graduation of five seniors, including twins Christina and Jenna Dal Santo (both first team all-state selections), along with the transfer of Serena Wagner to Valparaiso, were big losses.
“It was a big adjustment for us, but we still have great chemistry on and off the court,” Brown said. “We have a lot of athletic and aggressive players. I honestly feel we can make it to state again, and that’s our goal.”
Portage yearns for more: First-year coach Allison Bachman believes her team is capable of dramatic improvements.
“Portage has always been a middle-of-the-pack team in the DAC, but I believe we have the opportunity to turn things around,” she said. “We’re doing a pretty good job competing with DAC teams. We just need to come together as a team and play to win, rather than playing to keep up.”
Bachman’s goal is to put Portage’s program back on the map.
“I know my girls and myself want to prove that Portage is not a team to be taken lightly anymore,” she said. “We have the individual talent, now we just need to put it together.”
Senior middle Mackenzie McCarty-Hubbard and junior Kenzie Cline, who plays multiple positions, are Bachman’s top players.
McCarty-Hubbard leads the team in kills (61) and blocks (21) and has 11 aces, while Cline has 56 kills and eight blocks.
Bishop Noll rolling: After early losses to three top 10 teams — Fort Wayne Carroll, Penn and Hamilton Southeastern — Bishop Noll is back on track.
“We’re definitely finding our stride as we’re getting players back and into their primary roles,” coach Dave Rodriguez said. “We’ve run some unconventional lineups and kids are definitely stepping up.
“We want to continue to work on things we need to improve on as individuals and as a team, and do whatever it takes to be successful. We see a lot of winnable matches out there, but we can only succeed if we show up every day.”
A team strength has been blocking as Mary Markusic (55) and Raina Gillis (40) lead the way.
John O’Malley is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.
Volleyball Top 10
With records through Tuesday and previous rankings in parentheses.
1. LaPorte 11-0 (1)
2. Crown Point 8-5 (3)
3. Lake Central 12-4 (4)
4. Michigan City 11-2 (2)
5. Munster 8-3 (6)
6. Andrean 10-7 (5)
7. Valparaiso 6-8 (7)
8. Bishop Noll 8-5 (9)
9. Morgan Township 16-2 (10)
10. Boone Grove 12-5 (8)
Player of the Week: Sophomore outside hitter Emma Best totaled 17 digs, 14 kills and six aces on Tuesday as Lake Central swept Michigan City.