Tigers integrating more youth into starting lineup

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Sorlie, Pecha, Wolfe to lead Gillett this fall
By: 

Times Herald photo by Chris Caporale

Gillett High School senior Faith Sorlie gets low to make a pass during practice Monday. Sorlie is one of three seniors returning to the starting lineup this all and one of five seniors on the team’s roster.

Losing two of the quickest players from last year’s team will make it more difficult for the Gillett volleyball team to find success this fall.

With five returning starters, however, head coach Keri Hicks hopes the team can plug in some talented sophomores and get back on track.

“Our theme this year is one step at a time, not that we can’t set goals and or look at expectations,” Hicks said. “I always want to be in the top three; that’s not going to change.”

The Tigers were expected to much better last season than their final 9-15 record (7-8 in the Marinette & Oconto Conference).

The disappointment is fueling the five seniors who are playing their final year with the Gillett name on the jersey.

“We had really big dreams last year, and we didn’t reach them obviously,” senior Faith Sorlie said. “I hope that this year, we can at least … build a plate for them to build off of.”

Myranda Pratsch, the M&O’s top defensive specialist, along with Erin Balthazor, an honorable mention outside hitter, were major contributors to the Tigers last fall, along with middle hitter Victoria Loberger, who had size that Gillett now lacks.

With them gone, Sorlie is filling in at the middle position, which means Megan Wolfe could play all-around as a setter and hitter, while Taylor Yonker and Willow Pecha each swing on the outsides.

Sydney Young, sophomore, could see time as the other setter in the 6-2 offense as one of the many youngsters getting varsity time this year.

“I guess skill-wise, we’re pretty good. I have a lot of faith in these freshmen,” Sorlie said. “They’re such a big group and everything. … I think they have the willingness to learn, and that’s a good aspect.”

Hicks praised the work of Grace Wickman and Pecha, who both put in extra time in the weight room and in speed training over the summer. Crystal Zempel, returning from an anterior cruciate ligament injury, will miss the season-opening nonconference game Aug. 22 against Elcho but could be cleared for the M&O triangular at home Aug. 24.

There might be some growing pains early in the season while the team tries to figure out how to play together.

“We’re kind of inexperienced except for Faith, Megan and Willow,” Hicks said.

The loss of Balthazor, especially, left a big gap in the leadership of the team, Hicks said. She expects Sorlie to grow into the role as the year goes on.

First, however, Sorlie needs to get more comfortable and consistent on the court.

Sorlie needs to learn “whether you have a good play or you have an error, you’re still a good player,” Hicks said. “We’ve got to get her confidence working for her.”

Hicks consistently expects her teams to finish among the top three teams in the M&O Conference, and after the departure of eight of the top 14 players in the league, the expectations are no different this season.

Hicks believes Crivitz will be among the top teams, but Gillett and other teams will be competitive.

“I feel like the conference lost a lot of really good players last year,” Hicks said. “But I really feel like it’s there for the taking for a few teams.”

AT A GLANCE

Gillett High School

Volleyball Schedule

Aug. 22 vs. Elcho

Aug. 24 at M&O triangular

Aug. 29 vs. St. Thomas Aquinas

Aug. 31 vs. Bonduel

Sept. 5 at Wausaukee

Sept. 7 at M&O triangular

Sept. 12 vs. Coleman

Sept. 14 at Suring

Sept. 19 vs. Crivitz

Sept. 22 at Bowler

Sept. 26 at M&O triangular

Oct. 3 at Niagara

Oct. 5 vs. Lena

Oct. 10 at Oneida Nation

Oct. 12 at M&O triangular