ANNA — The goals are the same for the Anna Rockets: challenge for the Shelby County Athletic League title and get back to the Division III regional tournament.
How they get there, though, could be different from seasons past.
Five versatile seniors take over leadership duties on a team that could change up its lineup for any given match.
“It’s very different for us this year. Our lineups are going to be unique, fun and very creative on our end,” Anna coach Kelli Zumberger said.
“It’s definitely been a learning curve for us. Practices have been getting better every day and things are starting to click more.”
Anna graduated five seniors from last season’s team that finished 18-9 overall and 8-4 in the SCAL. The Rockets reached the D-III regional tournament for the fourth straight season and lost a four-set heartbreaker in the regional semifinals to Marion Pleasant, 25-16, 27-29, 23-25, 18-25.
Macy Wiktorowski (190 kills, 128 digs, 26 blocks, 37 aces) returns as an offensive threat at outside hitter. Zumberger said Wiktorowski’s shot selection has been fantastic during the preseason as she learns to see the other side of the court.
Elizabeth Michael (186 digs) moves into the libero role, taking “control and telling the younger players this is what we need to do and where we need to be.”
Madison Roe (148 kills, 55 digs, 48 blocks), a quiet but effective leader with what Zumberger calls a hammer for an arm swing, can play middle or outside and is “excelling at the outside position as we expected.”
Lauren Barhorst (133 kills, 60 blocks, 33 digs) is also versatile in the middle and should see time at other positions as well, being “more of a threat for us this year. She’s grown so much from last season.”
Defensive specialists Maggie Stiefel and Emily Bertke, who will also take on a larger hitting role, add depth to the senior class.
“Really I just want to see growth from us as far as learning and getting things down,” Zumberger said. “Volleyball is such a mental sport and a lot of it is timing. I like the position that we’re in. We’re not playing our best volleyball — no one is right now — but I love seeing them grow.”
Junior Mary Landis (164 digs, 39 assists, 19 aces, 248 serve receptions) takes over at setter and sophomore leaper Kaitlyn Harris takes a larger role at middle hitter.
Anna joined Fort Loramie, Jackson Center and Russia as regional qualifiers last season, with the latter three playing in D-IV. Add in Fairlawn and those five teams are named as the frontrunners for the SCAL title.
“That’s one thing I love about this league. You just don’t know what team is going to show up what night,” Zumberger said. “I love playing five-set games because it mentally prepares you. Seeing a lot of county teams at tournaments this summer, I thought this is awesome. It’s really good for us in the end.
“Right now our goal is to take one at a time. To talk about tournament right now … we have our goals and one of them is how far we want to get into tournament. We have to be realistic right now, too. We have to put that on the back burner. We can’t think about October. But our league definitely helps us to get farther.”