By Jerry DeRoche
CRYSTAL FALLS — When a volleyball team loses its conference player of the year middle blocker, a first-team setter, an honorable mention outside hitter and a key defensive player, well, that will leave some holes.
Forest Park coach Bobbie Anderson describes it as a “huge void” from last season’s squad which finished 9-1 in Skyline Conference play and 10-6 overall in duals. But no prep team can afford to look backward so the 2020 Lady Trojans must go on without Mercedes Simmons, Sydney Honkala, Kelsey Ragio and Caitlyn Bloomberg.
Leading the way for FP’s latest volleyball entry are returning seniors Megan Bucek, Aubrianna Ahola, Paige Mianecki, Macy Johnson and Elaina Perry.
Anderson, FP’s junior varsity coach last year, commented on each.
“Megan is a great all-around player. Last year she mainly played right side but this year she has proven she can play any position in the front row. I currently have her playing right side, but she is also taking reps from middle.
“Aubrianna Ahola will be a defensive specialist for us this year. She is our communicator. She is constantly talking and moving and helping her teammates see the court.
“Paige Mianecki is another well rounded player. Paige always has a positive attitude and is willing to play any position we need her to. This year she will mainly be playing back row and/or right side. Paige is a hustler, she is constantly communicating and therefore she is a great leader on our team.
“Macy Johnson is another senior that we enjoy having on our team. Macy will mainly enter the game to serve and/or play back row. I have coached Macy for four years now and she is a fun, energetic girl and we love having her part of our program.
“Elaina Perry is a returning starter for us this year. She is a key player on our team and will be on the court at all times. She is a fantastic server, she has great ball control and her hitting is getting better and better.”
The Lady Trojans have three juniors in tow – middle blocker Gracie Peterson, setter Rayven Jacobson and back row specialist Maddie Divine.
“I have high expectations for our juniors this year,” Andersson said. “This is my third year coaching them so I know what they are capable of and I know they will be a great addition to the varsity team. All three of them are natural leaders on and off the court.”
Forest Park’s roster will also include sophomore Ashlynn Kannich and freshman Ema Stepien.
“Ashlynn is another key player for us,” Anderson said. “She can play any position and works extremely hard. She goes after every ball and always puts forth her best effort.
“Ema is being forced to learn the game of volleyball very quickly. She is a natural athlete and is working extremely hard every day. Ema will be playing left side or middle blocker this year. She has a big responsibility as middle blocker but I’m confident she will do a great job. She has already improved a lot.”
The Lady Trojans have gotten off to a slow start this season, dropping their first two matches, including three-set losses at Carney-Nadeau and Norway. After the Sept. 3 defeat against the Knights, Anderson said the team isn’t where it needs to be yet.
“It is disappointing to see such a great group of girls struggle like we did tonight. We struggled to keep any momentum. We made too many mistakes and gave Norway point after point. We did a poor job communicating and we played extremely timid. Our girls are constantly second guessing themselves on the court. We are lacking that drive and motivation to win.
“I truly believe our young team would have benefited greatly from playing invitationals. It is a missed opportunity for us, we could have used those extra games to work through rotations and learn each other’s tendencies. We will continue to work hard. I know these girls have it in them to elevate their game and have a good season.”
Still. Anderson said she is excited to move up to coach the varsity team this year.
“I have been part of the program for, I believe, 11 years and I have learned a ton from the previous coaches that I’ve worked with. I think we have a lot of potential this year and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do.
“This year our junior varsity coach is Lindsey Anderson and she brings a wealth of knowledge to our program. We are very fortunate to have her involved in our program.”
By Jerry DeRoche