ROCHELLE — Replacing a four-year varsity starter won’t be easy for the Rochelle Lady Hub varsity volleyball team next season. Combined with a condensed offseason, head coach Molly Sly and the Lady Hubs will face some challenges as the team looks to build on this season.
Rochelle finished 7-10 and 6-8 in the Interstate 8 Conference this season. The Lady Hubs saw three players receive All-Conference recognition including middle blocker Afi Gati (28 kills, 13 blocks) and four-year varsity setter Clare Green (347 assists), who ended her career with over 1,400 assists. Gati and Green are two of the seven seniors departing the program this year.
“I was excited that our seniors were able to compete this year,” Sly said. “The girls showed they could bounce back when the other team took the momentum away or when they didn’t score a key point during the match. We’ll need to work with our setters over the offseason and we’re losing our libero as well, so it will be interesting to see who earns that spot. We have some girls coming back in front row and I’m looking forward to seeing them grow.”
Seniors Ellie Kinn (55 digs), Alexis Sanford (55 digs), Jesenia Solano (16 digs) and Morgan Haas (8 digs) will vacate varsity spots in the back row. Gati and senior Bella Lodico (18 kills) will depart from the front row, while Green’s absence in the middle will create the biggest challenge for the Lady Hubs. Junior Sylvia Hasz led Rochelle with 239 kills and 98 digs this season, earning All-Conference First Team recognition for the second year in a row.
“When we started camp this offseason, we realized how great of an impact Clare had on our team and how big those shoes will be to fill,” Sly said. “It will be interesting to see who steps up to take on that role. We’re thankful to have Sylvia back and she’s been a core player for us over the last two seasons. I’m looking for our sophomores to take on more of a leadership role as juniors next season. I want to see them encourage all of our players to be successful.”
Sophomores Addie Friestad (80 kills, 22 digs) and Payton Hale (17 kills, 20 digs) are two breakout candidates in the front row for next season, while sophomores Anna Harvey (47 digs) and Baylie Sutton could see increased roles next year. Juniors Ella McKinney, Lucy Bunger and Shannon Harding will all be eligible to return for their senior seasons this coming fall.
“I don’t see the shortened offseason as a positive,” Sly said. “We usually put a lot of work in over the offseason, but that’s not happening this year because of the short offseason. With spring and summer vacations, we’re being hit hard and it’s tough to get our girls together.”