Alpena Community College volleyball co-head coaches John Dietlin and Sara Parsons have reason to be excited when they look at this year's roster.
With a solid mix of experience, talent and height, the Lumberjacks have the chance to be competitive in the MCCAA Eastern Conference this season.
The only thing that's missing is tangible results of their hard work.
"Until we start getting banners up on the wall, it's never going to be where we want it to be, but we've moving forward," Dietlin said. "This is probably one of our better talented groups that we've brought here so far. We recruited to our weaknesses that we had last year, built upon our strengths and have everybody filling the roles we need them to fill."
ACC will begin its season at Oakland in the Block City Invitational. The Lumberjacks will play Muskegon to open the season at 11:45 a.m.
After earning a spot in the district tournament last year, Alpena enters the season with a roster full of fast, agile players and a lot of height. Of the 11 players on the roster, six of them are at least 5-10, giving the Lumberjacks a formidable rotation of players up front.
Dietlin and Parsons are in their third year together at the head of ACC's program and have noticed a growth in the overall talent of the players they're coaching, which should bode well for the program in the future.
"The first week of practice, we were so much farther than we were last year so it's going to nice to play on Saturday and everyone's going to think we aren't anything. To shock people would be a great feeling," Parsons said.
Among the key returnees is 5-11 sophomore outside hitter Whitney Frazier, who was an all-conference honorable mention last season. She'll bookend one end of ACC's front row with freshman Mary Myers taking the other outside spot. In the middle, 5-11 sophomore Danielle Krupp will play alongside freshmen Sandy Bischoff and Karley Pearsall and Tiffany Nickert. Bischoff and Pearsall are both 5-11.
In the back row, sophomore Courtney Holmes will anchor the line at libero and will be joined by returning defensive specialist Amanda Williams and setter Brittany Bell. Freshmen Emily Gonyer and Paige Vallier will also see time in the back row.
The Lumberjacks may have the ability for a lot of offensive firepower up front, but Dietlin is hoping a strong defensive game can lead to more offensive opportunities. One area of concern last season was transitioning from defense to offense and the team has worked on improving its passing.
"The biggest key in volleyball is setting the pace. I think with our hitting ability and our transitioning and defense, we're going to be much better offensively because of that," Dietlin said. "Our hitting has really come together since the beginning of the year, now it's just a matter of putting those little intrigue steps together to see the bigger whole."
All but one of the players on ACC's roster this season is from northern Michigan and another spot in the district tournament and some more wins this season could prove very beneficial for the Lumberjacks as Dietlin and Parsons work to bring talented players to Alpena.
"Ideally we'd like to be the destination for all the talented players in Northern Michigan; east, west and the U.P and bring them here," Dietlin said. "This school has a lot to offer academically and once we start getting to where we want to be athletically, I think you'll really see the program take off and get to the heights that we know we can achieve."
James Andersen can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.