Playing one of the stronger Class C schedules in the state means every match matters. White Pigeon volleyball’s mercurial 2012 campaign included momentum-gaining streaks and deflating losing skids on its way to 27-28-1 overall record.
The list of opponents this fall isn’t any easier, but the Chiefs and head coach Tony Hooley think they’ll see better results, even if the St. Joseph Valley league positioning remains the same.
“Bronson and Mendon will set the standard again like last year,” Hooley said. “Our hope is to be competitive with them and see what happens. Centreville has some good athletes over there also, along with some height. We can’t take them lightly either or we’ll be chasing everyone.”
The Chiefs went 9-3 through the first three weeks of October before running out of steam in the final 11 days of the season, when it went 2-6. It was just 2011 that White Pigeon posted 41 victories — sixth most in program history. So after somewhat of a down season, Hooley, who entered the season with a program-high 236 career coaching wins, believes experience and a bad taste in his players’ mouths will compute to more wins in 2013.
Senior libero Rachel Brock made the All-SJV team as a junior and gives White Pigeon “consistent passing out of the back row,” Hooley said, and provides direction for the defense. It’s Brock’s third year on varsity and she’ll serve as one of the team’s captains while playing multiple positions on the back row.
Outside hitter Bethany Hagner (senior) was an all-league honorable mention in 2012 and brings a well-rounded skill set to the table after leading the squad in kills as a junior. Dani Chantrenne adds to the depth on the outside in her junior campaign.
A trio of sophomores are expected to make significant contributions this fall. Kat Hagner and Syd Harmon gained a lot of experience as freshmen and have more confidence in the middle to boost the Chiefs’ offense. Riley Phelps brings “loads of potential and provides us with a very effective blocker on the right side,” Hooley explained.
Going from varsity manager for the last five years to rookie starter, freshman Skyler DeMeyer has picked up the nuances of the setter position early in her career and will only get better as the season progresses.
“We had a lot of inexperience last year despite having some nice athletic seniors,” Hooley explained. “This year’s squad is now showing some of the progress from having fought so hard through last season’s ups and downs. We dipped below .500 that last loss of the season after having clawed our way back to a respectable record with a nice win streak down the stretch. We want to have a record well above .500 and start playing for some championships again during this season.”
WHITE PIGEON CHIEFS
Coach: Tony Hooley (eighth year)
2012 recap: The Chiefs finished 27-28-1 overall and 3-6 in SJV play (third) and lost to state quarterfinalist Schoolcraft in districts.
Key players in 2013: Bethany Hagner (Sr., OH), Rachel Brock (Sr., Libero), Danielle Chantrenne (Jr., OH), Kathrina Hagner (So., MB), Sydney Harmon (So., MB), Riley Phelps (So., Opp.), Skyler DeMeyer (Fr., S).