Coming into their own
Halfway through the conference season, Stratford volleyball has turned heads
By Paul Lecker
STRATFORD — The Stratford volleyball team came into this season with high hopes and expectations. So far, the young Tigers are living up to those.
Following the Tigers’ 3-0 sweep of Wisconsin Rapids Assumption on Tuesday, they have hit the halfway point of the Marawood Conference South Division campaign at 2-1 and will look to finish the regular season strongly in the next few weeks heading into the WIAA playoffs, which begin on Oct. 18.
The Tigers boast a largely inexperienced varsity roster with five sophomores and three juniors playing key roles.
Mazie Nagel has become one of Stratford’s top hitters, and Brooke Peterson and Jadyn Dahlke have shared the setting duties. All three are sophomores.
Junior Makayla Krall, senior Andie Zuelke, and yet another sophomore Blaire Lindner have joined forces with Nagel to give the Tigers a potent front line.
“I think we learned a lot from our team that we had last year,” Stratford coach Brooke Kafka said. “These young players are embracing what they learned and using it for their season now. It’s exciting to see these young players take control.
“We don’t go into gyms saying, ‘Remember when?’ We go into the gym to make a name for ourselves. It comes from these young players who are willing to put the time in and willing to work for it.”
Val Licciardi and Katie Krueger are the other two seniors on the team, both serving in mostly back-row roles, and juniors Olympia Garrigan, Madisyn Daul, and Alexis Lappe round out a versatile roster for Kafka.
“We have a core group of girls that are willing to take control of the game and can take control of the game,” Kafka said. “It gives us an opportunity to try some different things that maybe we wouldn’t do if we didn’t have that solid core group. It’s nice to see what we can do with different players and different plays that we have.”
While things have been going well for the Tigers, upcoming matches at the Abbotsford Invitational and conference tilts against Auburndale on Oct. 4 and Marathon on Oct. 6 will give them a chance to further see where they stack up for the looming playoffs.
Kafka said this year’s squad is far ahead of the pace of recent teams.
“After each game we hash it out, ‘What are the things we need to work on?’” Kafka said. “From early in our season, we could be picky about little things that in past years we hadn’t touched until playoff time. It’s exciting now — with playoffs a couple of weeks away — that we’re digging deeper into those specifics and we’re always finding things to work on.”
Paul Lecker is publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to Hub City Times Sports. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.