GLADWIN – After multiple cancelations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Gladwin volleyball team will finally be able to get their season underway on Thursday when they travel to Grayling. It’s been an interesting offseason for the Flying G’s and they are looking forward to finally getting back to some semblance of normalcy. They have been practicing outside since the governor’s executive order prevented the use of indoor practice facilities in Region 4.
I caught up with the team back on August 12 when they held their first official practice out in right field of the baseball diamond at the high school. It was their first opportunity to practice with a net since last season. Coach Tony Wetmore thought that practice went well considering the conditions. “We are trying to simulate inside conditions as much as possible,” said Wetmore.
“The girls are just happy to be back together and playing,” continued Wetmore. “We are excited to finally have the opportunity and trying to make the most of the situation.” Practicing on grass presents some challenges, but also some opportunities. It is sometimes slippery in the morning forcing the girls to focus on footwork, but it is also more forgiving for the girls who like to throw their bodies around. Fewer floor burns and softer landings when diving are a couple of advantages.
Graduation hit the Flying G’s hard leaving multiple spots open. Brooke Chennette, Grace Beardsley, Alexis Wheeler and Sidney Conley are all gone from a team that finished second in the Jack Pine Conference with a 12-2 record. Chennette was a three-year starter and leader. She holds the Gladwin career and season assist records.
Even with all of the losses, the “cupboard” is far from bare. Three starters return and are expected to play big roles this season. Seniors Taylor Vasher and Chloe Kokotovich along with junior Renee Parrett will provide solid play and veteran leadership. Vasher was Gladwin’s top outside hitter last year and is looking to have a big senior year. Kokotovich plays in the middle providing lots of power and in tandem with Vasher gives the G’s one of the best hitting duos in the conference.
Parrett played libero last season as a sophomore, but is such a good hitter, a position change may be in order. Four sophomores will have big roles for the G’s this year, which bodes well for the future. Erin Breault is one of the stronger hitters in the program and will get the opportunity to show what she can do at the varsity level. Delaney Conley will probably be a defensive specialist with her skills as a passer out of the back row. Delaney Reynolds and Avery Miller will set when Gladwin goes to a 6-2 rotation. Wetmore feels that all four are highly motivated and willing to put in the hard work necessary to get better.
Expectations are all over the place heading into the season. Gladwin has been one of the better teams in the conference for a long time, but is very young. “We will work very hard, but will be inexperienced to start the season,” said Wetmore. “Even so we should still have a good team.”
I had the opportunity to talk to Vasher, Kokotovich and Parrett after practice. All three were very excited to get started. “We just want things to get back to normal,” said Parrett. The season takes on some added importance for Vasher and Kokotovich. They are seniors and have already lost one season to the virus so they are real happy to be back on the court. “We have to make the best of this season because it is our last,” said Vasher. “Whatever we get we have to have fun with it and do our best,” Kokotovich added, “I’m really excited that we get to have a season. The fact that we are practicing right now makes us happy, we can’t wait to get back to school.”
I share their excitement after five months of inactivity, it will be nice to see some high school games again.