Sprout, Peitersen to carry Panthers into 2017

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Falls loses top threat from a year ago

Greg Bates Times Herald Correspondent

Times Herald Photo by Chris Caporale

Oconto Falls High School sophomore Samantha Coron works on setting a ball during practice on Monday. Coron was the team’s No. 2 setter a season ago and will look to be more consistent this year.

Last season, the Oconto Falls volleyball team relied on a solid front row attack as Shelby Coron and Sarah Sprout combined for 737 kills.

Coron graduated, but Sprout is back for her senior year. Sprout, an outside hitter, is one of three returning players who played in every set in 2016. Middle hitter Stephanie Peitersen and setter Emma Huberty are also coming off strong seasons.

“Losing Shelby, she’s going to be tough to replace,” fourth-year head coach Rochell Otto said. “We don’t have really anybody coming in to replace her for my other middle.”

Sprout, who was first-team all-North Eastern Conference last year, was second on the team in kills with 254 and had a kill percentage of 35.2. She was also second in digs (297) and third in aces (35).

“We’ll definitely be riding with her,” Otto said. “She hits well off the right side, so I’m looking at possibly moving her so teams don’t aim up on her being on the outside.”

Sprout knows the pressure is squarely on her shoulders in order for the team to be successful. She’s up for the challenge.

“I definitely know that I’ll be getting some balls to me, and I’ll have to take care of that,” Sprout said. “But I’m also counting on our younger players to step up; it’s a team sport.”

Peitersen, also a senior, was fourth on the team in kills (75). Otto is hoping she can turn into a go-to offensive weapon this year.

“It’d be nice if Stephanie becomes a little bit more of an asset for us, just take some pressure off of Sarah,” Otto said. “Then we’ll have some newcomers that will hopefully step into a role.”

Huberty is coming off an impressive sophomore campaign. She amassed a team-high 680 assists (6.9 per set). Otto saw some good things out of Huberty during open gym in the summer. With a year under her belt, she was more relaxed and confident in calling the plays.

The Panthers also return sophomore setter Samantha Coron, Shelby’s sister. Coron accounted for 210 assists, appearing in 81 of her team’s 98 sets.

Oconto Falls will greatly miss Bailey Magnin, who was second-team all-conference as a back row specialist. Last year’s senior was tops on the team in digs (397) and second in service aces (36) while playing in every set.

With four starting spots pretty much accounted for heading into the season, Otto has about nine players fighting for the final three openings at libero, right side and outside.

Otto will have more than a dozen juniors and seniors trying to win a roster spot, so competition within the team should be fierce.

“I’m going to have so many decisions to make,” Otto said. “I’m not really sure where I see everybody fitting in. I think the biggest one is trying to find someone to play opposite of Stephanie in the middle position.”

With the loss of Shelby Coron and Krueger, who were both 6-foot, Oconto Falls will be shorter on the front line. At 5-foot-11, Sprout will be the team’s tallest player.

To overcome that lack of height, Otto’s girls will have to work extremely hard in all areas.

“You’ve got to work on quickness and hopefully getting them to anticipate where the set’s going and react a little bit quicker,” Otto said. “Hopefully studying, knowing the teams, knowing their offenses, know their go-to people and maybe take a little more gambles.”

In watching some of the summer league action, Otto was impressed with the play of last year’s junior varsity players in the back row, but inexperience with younger players is always a battle early in the year.

“I think we have to definitely work on not making unforced mistakes,” Otto said. “Especially since you’re not going to have the domination of a Shelby Coron that just puts the ball down wherever. If we don’t have many unforced errors, that will make us competitive. I think that we’ll be defensively sound.

“People aren’t going to hit the ball at us and we shank it all over the place. I’m hoping we’ll be scrappy, and that will help us stay in games.”

Oconto Falls finished 25-13 overall and tied for third place at 7-5 a season ago in the tough North Eastern Conference. Little Chute ran the table at 12-0 and Luxemburg-Casco finished 9-1.

Little Chute and Luxemburg-Casco should again be the front-runners this season. Little Chute returns conference Player of the Year Hannah VandenBerg.

“I’m hoping to be in the middle of the pack,” Otto said. “I would love to say that we’re going to finish third, but, realistically, I think if we finish in the middle I’d be satisfied with that.”


Oconto Falls High School

Volleyball Schedule

Aug. 22 at Little Chute Invitational

Aug. 25 at Hilbert Invitational

Aug. 31 vs. Fox Valley Lutheran

Sept. 7 at Wrightstown

Sept. 9 at Shawano Invitational

Sept. 14 vs. Clintonville

Sept. 16 at Pulaski Invitational

Sept. 19 vs. Menasha

Sept. 21 vs. Freedom

Sept. 26 vs. Luxemburg-Casco

Sept. 28 at Marinette

Oct. 3 at Denmark

Oct. 5 vs. Little Chute

Oct. 7 at Oconto Falls Invitational

Oct. 12 at Waupaca