Far more often than not over the last decade, Heritage’s girls volleyball team has finished at the top of the Bay Valley Athletic League standings. Though much of the BVAL season remains to be played, the Patriots are the favorites to raise another league championship banner.
What sets this group apart? Coach Janet Hannigan noted that many of the girls currently on the team were the same players who — going back to August 2020 — would show up for off-season conditioning and would continue to do so through January and February 2021.
“They could be, as a whole, the hardest working group I’ve had,” Hannigan said. “They’re very cohesive. They seem to enjoy being here and with each other. Knock on wood, there’s no drama. That’s always a plus.”
“Sometimes it takes a bit of a diva on a team to help you be successful. But I think the kids respect each other enough that we don’t really have that,” she added. “For someone like Sydney (Williams), an outside hitter, that would be a perfect position to be a diva. But she is the most humble, quiet, and kind person. Our setters are very giving. It’s good.”
Williams, a senior, has notched 65 kills and 20 aces on the season, leading the team in both categories. But while Williams is a focal point of the team, the Patriots are also deep.
Junior Maddison Kruse has 39 kills, senior Enna Delic has 32 and sophomore Brenna Gleason has 29. Senior Rochelle Mosley has 19 aces, and senior Lauren Sobolik and junior Brooke Slous both have 19. Delic and Gleason lead the team with nine blocks, with Williams, Mosley and Kruse on five each. Junior Paige Slous leads Heritage with 63 digs, Williams has 50, Slous (Brooke) has 47 and Mosley has 43.
Brooke and Mosley have shared setting duties. Slous leads the team with 121, and Mosley is second with 80.
“I think we’re looking pretty good,” senior Devin Bradley said. “Our setting has gone really well and our hitting — we’re working on shots. We’re doing pretty good this year.”
Bradley and Sobolik are players Hannigan identified as having shown the most improvement since last season. Year-to-year improvement isn’t necessarily uncommon, but it was challenging this season. The girls volleyball season being moved to the spring last year left a far shorter off-season. That limited their club season, which is often where individual skills are honed.
Big games remain on Heritage’s schedule. Games that carry extra significance this year will come in tournaments.
“They’re really important,” Mosley said. “The teams that we’re playing play at a higher level. It’s better competition and will prepare us for NCS.”
More than half of the league season remains. Heritage’s home matches are against Deer Valley on Thursday, Sept. 30; Pittsburg on Thursday, Oct. 7; and Liberty on Thursday, Oct. 21 for the regular-season finale. The Patriots will play at Liberty on Tuesday, Oct. 5; at Freedom on Tuesday, Oct. 12; at Antioch on Thursday, Oct. 14; and at Deer Valley on Tuesday, Oct. 19. All league games have 6 p.m. starts.
And if anyone were to go to one of these games, what would they see?
“I would say they would see a team with a lot of energy and passion,” Williams said. “Every player loves what they do.”
One trait Hannigan says this team models is that the players have fun but they don’t fool around.
Mosley shares that opinion.
“I want it to be remembered as a fun season, but a season where we worked hard,” she said. “We did what we knew we could do and gave it all we could.”
Beyond a long and successful season, the Patriots also hope to form a bond that extends beyond volleyball.
“I want a good bond between us where we’ll be amazing friends, even after the season,” Bradley said. “We’ll still talk to each other, and when we see each other on campus we’ll say hi and hang out with each other.”
“I don’t want them to just be people on my volleyball team. I want them to be my best friends,” she added. “I don’t want us to just be teammates. I want us to work further than that and be like a family.”