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Lady Trojans return solid core

CRYSTAL FALLS—Some years, high school volleyball coaches begin the new season trying to fill several holes caused by graduation. At other times, they have an abundance of returning players at one position and not others.
    And then there are the coaches who are fortunate to have the important areas of the court covered with veteran players. That’s the situation that Forest Park coach Ana Valesano finds herself in as she begins her third season at the Lady Trojans varsity head coach.
    Valesano’s squad brings back the spine of last year’s 8-9 team. Front and center, literally, is returning all-Skyline Central Conference middle hitter Mercedes Simmons, now a senior. Joining Simmons will be SCC honorable mention setter Sydney Honkala, starting outside hitter Kelsey Ragio and defensive specialist Caitlyn Bloomburg, all seniors.
    Simmons and Honkala have two years of varsity experience already, while Ragio and Bloomburg begin their second year at the top level.
    “We are pretty balanced,” Valesano said. “We have experienced girls, they’re smart and I know that they have a will to win.”
    With veteran players in tow, Valesano expects her leadership group to provide stability and poise.
    “This senior group, they know that I expect a lot out of them to be the leaders of the team,” Valesano said. “And that’s one thing that this group has, they all like to be on task and be leaders, especially to the underclassmen who look up to them.
    “But they also get along well, they all mesh, so that’s good. You need that camaraderie. And they communicate well.”
    Defensive specialist Kara Anderson is another senior for Valesano to count on.
    Juniors on the roster include Elaina Perry, an outside hitter who was promoted to the varsity squad late last season, defensive specialist Aubrianna Ahola, middle hitter Chloe Sundell, outside hitter/defensive specialist Megan Bucek, defensive specialist Annalise Strelecki and outside hitter/defensive specialist Paige Mianecki.

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