Updated: Aug 17, 2022
The 2022 volleyball season is shaping up to be a big one, starting with the North Branch Broncos.
As a young team that worked its way to the MHSAA Division 2 State Finals last year, North Branch returns with a still young, but highly-experienced roster. Two seniors and five juniors are back from last year as Gracie Hyde was the lone senior to graduate, and head coach Jim Fish said he’s looking forward to what this team can do.
“We only lost one player from our state finalist team. We expect to compete for championships again this season,” he said. “Our league is much improved and we will have to get through Imlay City in the district and Notre Dame Prep in the regional.”
The Broncos' key returners include seniors Natasha Bickel and Bailey Gormley, and juniors Hailey Green, Alana Deshetsky, Adrienne Greschaw, Kaela Chingwa, and Clara Gyomory.
But as Fish mentioned, the Broncos will likely face tougher conference competition this year as several BWAC teams return talented rosters as well. Imlay City, which finished second in the league last fall with only two losses – both of which were to North Branch – returns all but one player, setter Jaya Forti. The Spartans are bringing back Lexa Forti, Hope Schriber, Natalie Stone, Alyssa Evans, and Cassie Verellen, all of whom bring experience and talent.
Algonac graduated the most seniors from its starting lineup with three, but still, head coach Grant Harris said he’s excited about the returning talent (Ella Stephenson, Sierra Vosler, and Camden Thaler) and a handful of underclassmen who will add a lot of depth to the program.
Croswell-Lexington, which finished third in the BWAC at 7-7 last year, returns a majority of its starting lineup as Kylee Stribling, Elara Rankin, Riley Robertson, Kobi Stribling, Annalise Weeder, Bella Edwards, and Ava Oleski will all be back on the court.
Rylie Ferguson, Ava Schatzberg, Gracie Ostrander, Abbi Dykstra, Abby Reed, and Regain Spain will all be back for Yale; Piper Clark, Alayna Esselink, Lauren Teltow, Lauren Gray, and Emmi Hildreth return for Richmond; and Almont reloads with five seniors: Katelyn Cafek, Devin Johnston, Grace Koenig, Kendall Roszczewki, and Elly Schapman.
And rounding out the BWAC is Armada, which returns Alayna Nowak and Ella Sutton. Scott Scribner, who was the Tigers JV coach for the last 5 years, will be taking over as the head varsity coach this season, and he said he’s excited for the transition.
“The girls are super pumped for the new season. My coaching style is much more offensive-oriented. We don't have the talent we had last year, but I am a firm believer that volleyball is the ultimate team sport and these girls are as united as a team as I have ever seen,” he said.
In the MAC, this is a re-alignment year and it brings several changes. Marysville, after sharing the MAC-White title last fall, has moved up to the MAC-Red; St. Clair, after winning three consecutive MAC-Gold titles, has jumped up to the MAC-Blue; and Port Huron Northern moved down to the MAC-Blue from the MAC-White.
Marine City has stayed in the MAC-Gold, where it finished second to St. Clair last year with a senior-dominant roster, and Port Huron High will stay in the MAC-Blue.
For the Vikings, who made it all the way to the regional final last year, this season is about new challenges, according to head coach Kellie Kryscynski. She said her team understands the competition in the MAC-Red will prove much tougher, which is exactly what was demanded.
“I really feel like it’s going to challenge us and that’s what the girls have asked for. They wanted a challenge and they wanted to get better and for us to get better, we’ve got to play the best,” Kryscynski said. “We may have some struggles throughout, but I really feel like they’re working hard and we have an opportunity to go to the next level.”
Marysville graduated three last year – Anna Oles, Olivia Koza, and Grace Schweihofer – and has two more athletes out due to injury this fall. Kryscynski, however, said her team is stepping up in exciting ways.
“One of the people who’s going to make an impact is Meghan Winston. I have to give her a lot of credit,” Kryscynski said. “She’s going to be our starting setter. That’s asking someone who’s never played quarterback to be a quarterback, and she’s just put in the work, done it without complaint, and I’m so impressed and proud of her for how far she’s come in such a short amount of time.”
She said the Vikings will also be relying on Janae Hudson, Avery Wolters, and Kara Miller, all of whom return with varsity experience.
For the Saints, who are returning the core of their starting lineup – Payton Malcom, Erin Seros, Madison Melczarczyk, Peyton Leaver, and Ashlyn Zimmer – they’re ready for a new challenge in the MAC-Blue. Head coach Michelle Achatz said she’s excited to see her team reach its potential and its senior leadership will be vital.
Joining the Saints are Port Huron and Port Huron Northern. Port Huron head coach Derek Arena said he and his team are excited about competing for a league and district title this fall as they return four key players, Lainey Lichota, Ella Jacobs, Paige Zuehlkz, and Jordyn Fiedler. And the Huskies bring back Anna Kerhoulas and McKenna Kitely as they look to make their presence known in their new league.
And while Marine City may have graduated six seniors last year, the Mariners still have four seniors and two juniors returning to this year’s roster: Maggie DeWitte, Carly Frank, Riley Daniel, Sydney Smith, Jade Blanchard, and Josalyn Dietlin.
Competition for volleyball can begin Wednesday, Aug. 17, but most teams will kick off their seasons with tournaments this Saturday.