Eagles have big expectations, but will be challenged

Mark Griffin

A lot of “ifs” are involved, but if Clay’s volleyball team evolves the way second-year coach Carrie Wagoner says it can this season, the Eagles will be a threat to compete at the state tournament in November.
        Clay returns nine starters from last year’s team, which tied St. Ursula Academy and Notre Dame Academy as Three Rivers Athletic Conference champions. Previously, the last time Clay won a league volleyball title was 2002 and that was in the Great Lakes League, said Athletic Director Mark Beach.
“We’ve been pumped up just from the preseason,” Wagoner said. “We played Olentangy Liberty, which was a final four team in Division I last year, and we beat them this summer. Tiffin Calvert was the Division IV state champ last year and we beat them. We played some really good teams in the summer.
“If we continue (playing) the way we are, I think we can get past districts and regionals. Our goal is to get to state. We’re also hoping to take the TRAC (title) solo this year. I have a very good, stacked team.”
The Eagles (4-3) lost their conference opener on Tuesday, falling to visiting St. Ursula by a 25-23, 25-21, 25-23 margin.
“Both teams played well, but we struggled on serve receive,” Wagoner said. “Our defense was good and we had a lot of blocks. St. Ursula is a good team, but very beatable. We will see them again at districts.”
Clay has wins over Anthony Wayne, Sylvania Northview and Norwalk, and the Eagles also beat Central Catholic in a non-TRAC match. The Eagles’ other losses are to Perrysburg and Ashland.
“We beat them both in the preseason,” Wagoner said. “We’ll see Perrysburg again at the end of next month at their tournament, so hopefully we’ll get those games back.”
One thing Clay has going for it this season is a tall lineup. Wagoner said she has been told this could be the Eagles’ tallest team ever.
“We have a lot of good blocks this year,” Wagoner said. “We are huge at the net. Usually Clay is a back-row, scrappy team. This year we have some really good net players. This team is very energetic, very loud. They cheer for everything. They communicate as a team on the court. The girls on the bench are pumped up and talking and calling things on the court that maybe the people on the court don’t see.”
The Eagles return four players who earned all-conference honors a year ago. Hannah Blausey, a 6-foot outside hitter, was a first-team pick, while 6-1 senior middle hitter Olivia Henneman-Dallape and junior setter Jaiden Karrick made the second team. Junior libero Kendall Seimet was honorable mention.
Blausey is a team captain along with Henneman-Dallape and Karrick.
“She is a big outside hitter,” Wagoner said of Blausey. “If she’s on, we’re golden. If she’s off, it’s going to be a struggle. Same with Olivia. If she’s off, it’s not going to be a good day for us. Those three are my leaders on and off the court, my go-to girls. We really rely on those three to put the ball down and run plays and lead the team.”
Karrick was named Clay’s top player in Tuesday’s tough loss to the Arrows.
“She chased everything down and she was all over the court,” Wagoner said. “She never gave up on anything and she stayed positive and cool headed all the way through. If our passing was on like it normally is, I think the outcome would have been way different.”
Henneman-Dallape has verbally committed to play at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich.
“She’s quick and she’s the tallest girl on the team,” Wagoner said. “We do a lot of different plays with her and she’s a beast with her blocking. My back row loves when she’s in. I love her attitude. She’s a go-getter and very positive.”
Sydnie Meinke, a 5-9 senior right side hitter, has verbally committed to Owens Community College, according to Wagoner.
“She’s very positive and hungry for the ball,” the coach said. “She’s all in; no matter where you put her, the kid’s going to get the job done. She’s a great fit for Owens.”
Junior Kendall Seimet, the starting libero, is the younger sister of Bowling Green State University libero Kallie Seimet, who is the first women’s volleyball player in Mid-American Conference history to be named MAC Player of the Year and MAC Defensive Player of the Year two straight years. Wagoner said junior Mackenzie Jones can also play libero and back row.
“Kendall is a little firecracker. She’s just good and she’s scrappy,” Wagoner said. “She will go somewhere to play (in college). Mackenzie will probably end up playing in college. She’s very good. Between her and Kendall in the back row, not too many balls get past either one of them.”
Two of the Eagles’ other top players are 6-foot senior middle hitter Alivia Rew and junior Halayna Kesling, who plays on the right side in the back row.
“Halayna is pretty scrappy back there,” Wagoner said. “If Jaiden was to take a first ball, you can rely on Halayna to get the second ball. Alivia is a quiet kid, but once she gets contact with that ball, watch out.”
Molly Brammer, a sophomore outside hitter, is still learning the varsity game, Wagoner said, adding that sophomore right side hitter Meah Przybylski will also see plenty of action.
“Molly has a lot of growing to do, but you can rely on her,” Wagoner said. “She’s still getting used to the faster paced game. I’m excited to see the next two years with her because she’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.”


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