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Mooseheart volleyball coach Kristin Shuman demonstrates a technique to sophomore Chavonn Gette during the Ramblers opening practice in preparation for the 2013 season. Mooseheart hosts Paw Paw on Aug. 28 in its season-opening match.
Sophomore Abi Alade (left) is Mooseheart’s strongest returning hitter on a team that advanced to the Luther North Class 1A Regional before being eliminated from the 2012 postseason.
Sophomore Shannon Johnson contributed to Mooseheart’s varsity team as a freshman and hopes to do so again in 2013. The Ramblers finished 3-16 a year ago.
MOOSEHEART, IL, August 15 – As Mooseheart volleyball coach Kristin Shuman surveyed the group assembled for her team’s first practice of the 2013 season – she saw a lot of familiar faces – and she saw a lot of faces.
With a turnout that is near to 25 this season, and with four of six starters returning to the varsity squad, Mooseheart is in a solid manpower situation as Shuman prepares for her sixth season in charge of the Ramblers program.
“We only lost two seniors, so we have a really good starting block,” Shuman said. “Obviously there are holes to fill, but it makes it a lot easier when there are only two.”
Mooseheart (3-16) struggled through the regular season in 2012 before catching fire in the Luther North Class 1A Regional. The Ramblers won their opening two matches before falling to the host Panthers in the regional title match.
But the experience of that postseason run should fuel the Ramblers as they move toward their 2013 schedule, which opens on Aug. 28, when they host Paw Paw in a 5:45 p.m. match.
“We kind of struggled the whole season trying to find our groove,” Shuman said.
The Ramblers compete in the Northeastern Athletic Conference, and that is one of the stronger small school volleyball conferences in the state. NAC foes Harvest Christian and Keith Country Day met in a Class 1A Supersectional a year ago – with Keith Country Day winning and ultimately defeating Mt. Pulaski for the state title.
“We’re in a very difficult conference,” Shuman said. “We do what we can. But going into the regional and doing what we did, it was definitely a high note to end on. I think that will definitely drive them to want to get back there again and hopefully to win that this time.”
On a team that is constantly challenged for a lack of height, sophomore Abi Alade stands out as the team’s tallest player and strongest middle hitter.
“I knew it from last year when she stepped on the court that she had all the potential in the world,” Shuman said. “Just today seeing her start swinging at the ball, she has definitely come along. Last year, she didn’t play defense. This year, I want her to be an all-around player, because she can be very hard to defend.”
Junior Madison Hart is another strong hitter and fellow juniors Rocio Sanchez, Jasmine Martinez and Leslie Ballard are also returning, as is sophomore Shannon Johnson, who contributed as a freshman a year ago.
“That whole junior crew has got some talent to work with,” Shuman said. “They’re all very athletic and talented.”
While the large turnout won’t necessarily swell the varsity roster, it allows Shuman to keep younger players on lower-level teams rather than rush them to the varsity team.
“It gives them the experience they need at the level that they are at,” Shuman said. “I’m not having to put someone on varsity just because I have to have a body to put on the court. That person might not be ready at the varsity level. It gives them that experience to play against players more at their level.”
Mooseheart 2013 Varsity Volleyball Schedule
Wed. Aug. 28 home vs. Paw Paw, 6:45 p.m.
Thu. Aug. 29 at Hinckley-Big Rock, 6:30 p.m.
Thu. Sept. 5 at Luther North, 6 p.m.
Sat. Sept. 7 at Christian Liberty Tournament, TBA
Tue. Sept. 10 at Christian Liberty, 6:15 p.m.
Fri. Sept. 13 home vs. Elgin Academy, 5:30 p.m.
Tue. Sept. 17 at Westminster Christian, 6 p.m.
Thu. Sept. 19 home vs. Alden-Hebron, 6 p.m.
Tue. Sept. 24 home vs. IMSA, 6 p.m.
Thu. Sept. 26 home vs. Keith Country Day, 6 p.m.
Mon. Sept. 30 home vs. Kirkland Hiawatha 6 p.m. (Homecoming)
Thu. Oct. 3 at Harvest Christian, 6 p.m.
Tue. Oct. 8 home vs. Faith Lutheran, 6 p.m. (Senior Night)
Thu. Oct. 10 home vs. Morgan Park Academy, 5:30 p.m.
Tue. Oct. 15 at Indian Creek, 6 p.m.
Thu. Oct. 17 at Rockford Christian Life, 6 p.m.
Mon. Oct. 21 at Somonauk, 7 p.m.
Sat. Oct. 26 Northeastern Athletic Conference Tournament, TBA