Gielczyk: Ludington Hopes to Contend Again in 2019
Ludington volleyball coach Theresa Shoop started the season with just nine girls, and five of them were seniors.
About midway through the season Shoop brought up a couple of sophomores from the junior varsity, and moved some players around to different positions.
Shoop felt that it helped the squad all around on the Orioles’ net play, as well as fostering better team spirit and enthusiasm. The coach added that the seniors were a pretty quiet bunch and weren’t vocal leaders.
“Volleyball is a momentum sport, and even though they had skills they quite often lacked in keeping momentum on our side,” Shoop said. “We lost some close games in the beginning just from losing momentum.
“When the sophomore girls came up, they brought a lot of spirit with them. It kind of filtered over to the rest of the team, and everyone else kind of fed off of that. We had a pretty good season overall. It was a joy to coach them.”
After finishing second in the Lakes 8 Activities Conference during the regular season, the Orioles advanced to the district finals at Benzie Central, where they were eliminated by the Cadillac Vikings in three straight sets 20-25, 15-25, 20-25.
The Orioles’ net play began to blossom after Shoop took her two middle hitters and moved them to the right side, with the sophomores picking up the middle area. It gave the Orioles a solid blocking scheme to slow down the opponents’ attackers.
“Passing and digging were not our strengths, so being able to slow down some hits helped us in the long run to help us stay in system a little bit longer,” Shoop added.
Moving to the right side from the middle were upperclassmen Tori Clancy and Allison Morse.
Clancy had never played outside of the middle, while Morse might have only occasionally.
“I think she (Clancy) actually embraced the move a little bit better than I thought that she would, and I think she enjoyed playing on that side,” Shoop said. “Originally, it was just to make the transition for the sophomores a little bit easier, because they had only played the middle as well.
“But, I think it just sort of gelled in there, and the upperclassmen kind of fit over there.”
Elena Vaara and De’Lahna Porter were the sophomores who moved up from the junior varsity.
Shoop confessed to having some trepidation about the decision.
“You always worry when you bring sophomores up how the rest of the team is going to react to that,” Shoop said. “A few girls play a little bit less then, because you can’t bring those kids up and not play them.
“That’s not fair to them, or to their development as a volleyball player. They both came up and played right away, and played a lot. I was really proud of the other girls, too, because they took that in stride and embraced the overall improvement in our play.”
Vaara and Porter always had the highest kill efficiencies for the night in every match they played.
Being close to 6-feet tall certainly gave them an advantage.
One of the things Ludington had to change up once that move was made, Shoop said, was to shifting Laura Gibson from front row back to the libero.
Although she really took to playing at the net, Gibson had played libero before and was a defensive specialist, so she fit right back into that position quite well according to Shoop.
Ludington finished 28-22-5 on the season, and while the younger players who’ll be moving up from the junior varsity, Shoop is hopeful the Orioles can be a contender in the league again next year, and make another run at winning the district.
Greg Gielczyk is an award-winning sports columnist and sportwriter who worked a total 36 years — interrupted for an 18-month period from 1997-99 — at the Manistee News Advocate as sports editor until 2006 and is now retired. He currently is a freelance sportswriter for the Ludington Daily News. Gielczyk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for story ideas.