Kellie Kryscynski and the Marysville Vikings knew this year would be a challenge.
They elected to move up to the MAC-Red this fall after becoming last year’s MAC-White co-champion, joining powerhouses like Dakota, a semifinalist in last year's Division 1 State Finals tournament.
Now, Marysville is the only school in the league with less than 1,000 students, while on average its opponents come from a Class A school with 2,000 kids.
And to make it even more of a challenge, they’re navigating this new league without two of last year’s starters, setter Avery Woodard and hitter Rayna Powers, who’ve been out all season with injury.
But that hasn’t stopped the Vikings from competing, and more importantly, improving and preparing for the early-November championships.
“We knew we were going to struggle. I think the Red is giving us all we thought it’d be and we’re learning a lot in this first half of the season,” Kryscynski, the team’s head coach, said. “We’re hoping that as we begin the second half of the MAC-Red that in some of these games that have been tight losses, we can flip and turn into wins, and the games that we struggled in we can be a little more competitive in.”
Marysville just finished its first round of league matches Tuesday night with a 3-0 win over L’Anse Creuse North (25-15, 25-22, 25-21) and is now 2-3 in league play.
Juniors Avery Wolters and Janae Hudson each recorded 10 kills, and senior Allysse Berger chipped in with eight.
“Janae and Avery are performing [well]. They’re our hitters that we’ve been relying on,” Kryscynski said. “Allysse actually has stepped in and has really turned it up a little bit too, so that’s relieved some of the pressure from Avery.”
The victory will give the Vikings a boost of much-needed encouragement after a rough week prior as three different athletes sustained ankle injuries.
“We’re hoping we’re taking our lumps now so that when we get into the middle and end of October, we’ve reached that peak performance,” Kryscynski said. “If [the injuries were] going to happen any week, that was the week.”
After a week without games, Marysville had a bit of time to recover for the second half of the season. Tomorrow the Vikings will play Romeo on the road, a team they defeated 3-1 at home to start the year. They’ll then finish out with Eisenhower, Dakota, and L’Anse Creuse North before starting the district tournament on Oct. 31.
“Our hope is that playing a tougher schedule will benefit us in the postseason,” Kryscynski said. “Seeing the type of teams that we’re seeing will really help us as we’re getting ready for districts.”
Kryscynski said the girls are starting to feel more comfortable as they navigate the faster, stronger style of play within the MAC-Red and figure out their best lineup. Along with solid hitting, senior Meghan Winston, the team’s new setter in place of Woodard, has done noticeably well commanding the offense.
“Meghan is doing a great job. A couple of different referees that we’ve seen consistently have complimented just how well she’s doing considering that she’s a first-year setter,” Kryscynski said. “I’m very proud and impressed by the way she’s been playing.”
Winston had 38 assists, 10 digs, and two kills last night against L’Anse Creuse North.
And defensively, senior Kara Miller continues to lead the team as libero, recording 26 digs in last night’s match, along with a pair of teammates who are rising up to fill other gaps on the court.
“[Junior] Addison Turner and [senior] Emma Curtis have done a really great job of filling holes on the defensive and passing side that we really needed,” Kryscynski said. “They’ve given us a spark in that department.”
The Vikings will begin district play on Monday, Oct. 31 in Algonac. They’re in a district with Algonac, Armada, Marine City, Richmond, and St. Clair.
Should they win their second consecutive title, the winner of District 60 (Almont, Croswell-Lexington, Imlay City, North Branch, and Yale) will await them for the Region 15 semifinal.
For in-game updates and other news, follow Calli on Twitter @ newberry_calli
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