Ferndale Volleyball Eager To Get Back On Court
Regional finals appearance last year has returning Eagles hungry for more success.
A lengthy playoff run last season has raised the bar for the Ferndale varsity volleyball team.
The Eagles (23-15-2) season ended with a three set loss (25-13, 25-16, 25-12) to Livonia Churchill in the Class A regional finals. It was the first time Ferndale reached the round of 16 since 1999.
Coach Shannon Pietras is bringing back a strong core of players (four seniors, one junior) that hope to make it two straight district titles.
“They are hungry for the same or better result than last year,” Pietras said. “It always helps to have a group return that experiences the success from the previous season because they know what it felt like and are anxious to recapture that feeling.”
The girls will have to do it without last year’s captain Alexis Smitowkski, one of five seniors that graduated. Pietras called Smitowkski a “terrific leader” and the team’s anchor on the left side of the court. She was second on the team in kills and was an excellent defender.
A player that should have no trouble filling that leadership void is Kelsey Wilson. The 6 foot 1 inch senior was a dominant force on the court last year with her combination of size and speed.
“Kelsey Wilson is truly a special player and person,” Pietras said. “Players like her do not come along very often. She is obviously known for her dominance at the net, but people may not also know that she is an amazing defender. I expect her to play left back as well this year.”
Pietras said Wilson’s leadership skills match her talent on the court and that’s the reason she’ll be one of the Eagles captains.
“She clearly leads by example and is a fierce competitor,” Pietras said. “The girls not only look up to her because of the example she provides on the court, but she is also very personable and caring off the court. You will see her talking to girls and giving them tips when they are not playing.”
Tryouts for the team are on Aug. 10, but Pietras already has an idea of some other players she expects to contribute. The team is allowed 15 practices through the summer and that allows the coaching staff to get a feel for what players are putting in the work.
“The girls that want to improve and potentially play varsity will be in the gym as much as possible,” Pietras said. “I have many girls that have been to every practice and I know their dedication and determination is there.”
Junior Meghan Carney looks like a leading candidate to take over the starting role as the team’s defensive specialist. Pietras also is hoping that junior Katlynn Hughes and freshman Karly Wilson (Kelsey’s younger sister) can have big years.
One challenge the Eagles will face this season is a tougher division. Ferndale finished in the top two of the Oakland Activities Association Blue with a 6-2 record. That second place finish bumped them up to the OAA White this season.
“It is going to be more challenging for us, but if we play well I feel we will hold our own,” Pietras said. “The girls are looking forward to the challenge.”