Northwood volleyball seeking that elusive TAAC title

J. Patrick Eaken

After Northwood volleyball finished 13-10 overall and 4-4 in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference in his first season, second-year coach Josh Jordan believes that this year his team can win a championship.
Jordan, who was the junior varsity coach two years before taking the helm of the varsity, notes that last year the Rangers defeated rival and league perennial power Cardinal Stritch “not once but twice for the first time in recent history.”
“I think with our combined age and experience on the court this season I expect us to be at the top of the TAAC battling with the best programs,” Jordan said. “A culture change from last season is hopefully the key to lighting a fire under these athletes to get the wins they deserve in 2020.
“For the 2020 season I believe some of our best strengths will be our ability to not give up on any play and fighting until the last point every set and every match.  We plan on having a much more aggressive offense as well, so we are hoping to keep a lot of opponents off their game.”  
The Rangers have eight returning letter winners, including 5-foot-8 senior outside hitter Ashlyn Rable, 5-6 junior outside hitter Alayna Avalos and 5-6 junior setter Ellee Weiss.
Rable was second team All-TAAC a year ago, getting 160 kills, 245 digs, 50 aces and a .410 hitting percentage. Avalos had 158 kills, 10 blocks and 30 aces and Weiss had 260 assists, 68 aces and 100 digs. Jordan says Rable and Avalos could be the two top hitters in the TAAC this season.
“I expect my outside hitters to run the show this year,” Jordan said. “We’re dueling Ashlyn Rable and Alayna Avalos on the outside hitter position. With a senior and junior running the front line I expect a ton of power mixed in with great touch and control of ball.
“Alayna Avalos was a strong player for us last season. However, for the 2020 season I fully expect her to have a breakout season.  Learning some control and better technique we will cut down the errors, increase the hitting percentage and up the number of kills exponentially.  
“Ellee Weiss is expected to be my top setter for the 2020 season.  She is already a two-year letter winner gaining experience and matching it with incredible ball control and tempo. She will be the Northwood quarterback on the court this season making the offense successful.”
 Jordan says Rable and 5-3 junior libero Hailey Apthorpe will lead the defensive side of the ball.
“This is her (Apthorpe’s) third season as a varsity contributing member and she is beginning to find her true form as libero for the team.  Her ability to read the offense and a strong serve receive will give her the advantage this season,” Jordan said. “I also expect Ashlyn Rable to be a six-rotation player this season for us again, playing a strong back row role as an outside hitter.”  
Jordan gives his athletes so much credit, that he believes several could continue playing collegiately if they put an effort toward it.
“I am slightly biased, but I believe I have a number of athletes who deserve looks from colleges due to their level of play.  I expect this to continue this season. Ashlyn Rable, Alayna Avalos and Hailey Apthorpe all could be on the radar for the future,” Jordan said. 
Among the returning letter winners, there are others who will contribute and may have a bright future, says Jordan.
“Erin Bouk (5-8 junior middle/right side) is another athlete I expect to turn the corner for us this season.  She will continue to improve as we move her around from middle to right side depending on the lineup,” Jordan said.  
“Tristan Sorosiak (5-10 sophomore middle) is one we have playing JV and swinging up to play a few sets of varsity every match. If she breaks out of her shell and works with us hard on getting the technique and footwork down, to match with her height and power she could eventually wind up a great weapon for us.”
Others contributing include 5-2 junior defensive specialist Mia Austin, 5-10 senior middle hitter Faren Bones, 5-8 sophomore right/outside hitter Aubrey Perlaky, 5-6 junior middle/right hitter Alexis Hutchinson, 5-3 sophomore defensive specialist Jade Wiley and 5-6 sophomore setter Mara O’Connor.
Jordan, who is assisted for the second year by Kenzie Egbert, admits the TAAC has plenty of talent all the way around the league.
“I think the competition in the TAAC is the strongest we have seen in a long time. With our program being added to the mix and increasingly competitive, Toledo Christian only graduating one senior last year and a ton of talent, Ottawa Hills first-year head coach (Jack Kauffman) also has a bunch of great talent, Cardinal Stritch is always a competitive team in the TAAC due to talent and coaching and an Emmanuel Christian team that continues to improve.  The TAAC will be a fun league to watch for volleyball in 2020.”
Jordan says his Rangers will have to overcome some of their own tendencies to keep in the race.
“We are a team that needs to understand our own abilities in order to be successful,” Jordan said. “In the past if we had a rough couple points it would take some time to get out of our heads.  My hope is this does not continue for the 2020 season. 
“We are just excited and hopeful to have a 2020 season where these incredible young athletes can go prove their talents on the stage we offer them. As their coach I am excited to see this program continue to grow and gain traction in the TAAC.”


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