Hooked on winning, Atlanta volleyball looks for more in 2023

Courtesy Photo The 2023 Atlanta High volleyball team includes from left to right: back: Valerie Binge, Janna Larson, Jenna McSwain and Ella Dobbyn; front: Jylisia Larson, Emma McSwain, Brianna Jadrych, Paiglee Moldenhauer and Alliyah Hagemeister.

ATLANTA — After not having won a district championship in volleyball since 2004, Atlanta was finally able to have that championship moment last fall. Now that they’ve had a taste of success, the Lady Huskies have their sights set on claiming more championship trophies.

“They got their first taste in any sport in winning a district and they loved it,” Atlanta coach Amy Mullard said. “Now, they don’t want to settle for anything less.”

Mullard is in the third year of her second stint as coach of the Huskies. She also previously spent time as Hillman’s coach, and the 1993 Atlanta graduate has certainly made waves within a program that hadn’t done a lot of winning until recently.

“My husband is also my assistant coach (Randy Mullard), and one of our big things was the culture,” Mullard said. “The first thing we did, before even teaching volleyball, was to change the culture and not accept that when we walk into a gym that the other team had already marked a win next to us.”

The 2021 season, her first year back with the Huskies, she was already able to get the squad to buy in. They had a much-improved 17-7 record, including impressive wins over Alcona and Rogers City.

“It took a little bit, but they realized that winning is fun,” Mullard said. “It is also a lot of work, but it is worth it. The culture has changed.”

It wasn’t just a one-year flash in the pan either. The Huskies followed that up with an even better 2022 campaign that saw them rack up a program record 27 wins, finish runner-up in the North Star League Little Dipper and, of course, win a district championship.

This year’s team should be primed for similar success. They did graduate three players from that team, but with eight returning to the lineup, the Huskies have plenty of experience to tap into.

“We are shooting our goals high this year,” Mullard said. “We are hoping to go a step further than we did last year, whatever that might mean for us. We have goals of never going backwards, we want to go forward every year.”

The Huskies are 3-0 (as of Tuesday) with straight set wins over the Charlton Heston Academy, Fairview and Wolverine.

They’ve been led by Brianna Jadrych, who so far has 52 kills and 10 blocks, Olivia Mcswain has 72 assists and 20 aces, Alliyah Hagemeister has hit 29 kills. Valerie Binge has 23 kills and Jenna Mcswain has showed off her serving prowess with 23 aces.

They’ll face much harder competition at a tournament at Oscoda on Saturday, but that’s exactly what Mullard wants.

“There are some really good teams there, but we did well there last year,” she said. “Seeing this good competition is making us better. We used to schedule not a lot of tough teams, just to make it through the season, but we want to add some tougher teams that win or lose will get us prepared for districts.”

The Huskies have been placed in a more challenging district this year, with Hillman, Onaway, Posen and Rogers City. Onaway, Rogers City and Posen are notoriously tough-outs, and Hillman is of course the team that kept Atlanta from winning a NSL Little Dipper championship last year. Hillman also beat Atlanta in five sets in last year’s regional semifinal.

“We are really working hard to try to improve on our results from last year with them,” Mullard said of Hillman. “We do have a tough district this year. It will take a lot of hard work, but anything worthwhile is not easy.”


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today