GRAND RAPIDS — After a strong start to the season, the Northview volleyball team is feeling a bit of a short-term slump.

With school starting and priorities shifting, the Wildcats are looking to manage the season of volleyball with their academic pursuits.

“Right now, you can tell we hit the school start,” Northview coach Taylor Rich explained. “In the beginning, we were all focused and mentally prepared for volleyball, volleyball, volleyball. And now, we are trying to mentally balance volleyball and school.

“It’s just this little mental hump that we are working to get over, but we are definitely showing signs that we are clearing out of that. I’m excited for next week when we start conference against Forest Hills Central.”

Opening up with Forest Hills Central will be a good test for the Wildcats, as the two teams are running similar to each other this season.

“They graduated a few; however, they have a young setter and they are kind of similar to us,” Rich said. “Maybe a little bigger, but in the end, we have to play our game. We have to make sure we are scrappy and we work through the long rallies. We serve tough and play tough defense, make smart shots.”

Through the struggle of back to school, Sam Underhill is once again leading the Wildcat pack. Underhill is a four-year starter that has been a constant in the lineup.

“Our middle and senior Sam Underhill is stepping up really big,” Rich explained. “You can tell she has been in it for a while, on and off the court as a leader.

“With her, she is very well aware as to what is next, and she can prepare mentally about how things should go, about how things are going to be, and so she is that stability. She can prepare the girls and make sure she talks things through. It gives them the heads-up and understanding of why they might be struggling in certain areas. She’s just been through it all.”

With her leadership on point, Coach Rich is looking for her senior middle to impact the team’s scoreboard night in and night out.

“I am hoping that she finds that consistency factor,” she said. “Normally, she is very consistent. Right now, there is a lot going on, so she just needs to find that again. She will be that dominant middle once again, with her blocking and attack. She’ll get lots of touches and score lots of points. The more we can get her the ball, the better.”

Along with Underhill’s on-point game, a pair of outside hitters are also making an impact all the way around the court. Senior Sydney Klekotka and junior Courtney Baker are the bookends who play all the way around and get the job done on offense and on defense.

“Sydney Klekotka didn’t play at all last year, and she stepped up quite a bit,” Rich said. “Sydney is a very controlled player, a very, very good passer, and offensively has a lot of shots.

“Courtney has stepped up as well. If things are going wrong, you would never know with Courtney. She just rubs it off and moves on. They are both solid six-rotation players. They have really stepped up in their roles from the past and have been very dynamic.”

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