Middle Park volleyball starts season hungry
Team loaded with seniors has big goals this year
Last year wasn’t easy for the Middle Park volleyball program, and the Panthers are looking to put that behind them this season.
After three games, Middle Park is 2-1. The Panthers fell to DSST: Montview in their season-opener before defeating KIPP Denver Collegiate and Bennett, both in three sets.
The Panthers faced Bennett on Saturday in Granby. Given the strong start, it seems as if the Panthers have been gearing up for the 2021 spring campaign.
“Absolutely we have,” coach Kelly Friesen said. “We had a rough season last year. It was really a rebuilding year for us and we struggled, so some redemption is in order.”
The Panthers have a team full of senior talent, and Middle Park aims to make the state tournament. To get there, the Panthers have a shortened 12-game season, along with a tourney in Bennett this weekend.
Because COVID-19 has reduced the number of games, most of the team’s contests are Class 3A Frontier League matchups, though the Bennett tourney and a cross-county game with West Grand will be outside league play.
Leading the way for Middle Park this year, the team has five seniors and their coach is expecting big things from each one of them.
Senior Maggie Pfeiffer might be Middle Park’s most versatile player. She is the libero and able to cover a lot of the court as she scrambles to keep opponents’ scoring to a minimum. She also leads the team in aces with eight so far this season.
“I can put her anywhere and I know she’s going to do great,” Friesen said.
At outside hitter, Dominyka Reventaite is also a leader for the Panthers and a senior who knows how to put the ball away. With a powerful kill, Reventaite is one key piece of a multi-pronged attack that can come from just about anywhere on the court.
Panthers senior Katie Trail is also a killer on the court, in addition to another team leader. Like Pfeiffer, Friesen said that Trail has shown amazing versatility and can play pretty much anywhere. Needless to say, the coach loves that.
On the right side of the court plays Kate McCauley, who’s one of the team captains and another great leader on the floor as she helps shore up Middle Park’s defense.
At middle hitter, Brianna Renteria is working a new position this season. If Panthers fans haven’t noticed her inexperience, that’s understandable because it’s not showing up in the stats either.
In fact, through three games, Renteria has 23 kills, second most on the team.
“Bri is coming into her own this year,” Friesen said. “Even though she’s playing a new position, she’s just killing it.”
The team also features two sophomore setters — Bella Svoboda and Ellie Holinka — running the Panthers’ offense, though Holinka has been sidelined with a concussion. On Saturday, Svoboda racked up 27 assists in the contest.
Juniors Elizabeth Hammond, Meg McCauley and Kayla McKibben also aren’t to be overlooked. In fact, Hammond led Middle Park’s attack vs. Bennett with 12 kills and she now has a team-high 27 kills through the first three games of the year.
“All of the girls, I can’t say enough great things about them,” Friesen said. “I’m so proud of them.”
While making the state tournament is Middle Park’s big goal this year, the coach explained they’ve been setting smaller goals as they go in hope that those accomplishments will lead to success with the big one.
Right now, that means the team has to talk on the court and communicate better, Friesen said.
“For us, talking is huge,” the coach added. “That was something we weren’t really good at last year … The more we can stay talking and fired up, the better and more focused we are.”
Middle Park plays in the Bennett tournament on Saturday and will return to face Platte Canyon on Tuesday at MPHS.
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Both the Grand County/Granby airport and the Kremmling airport are upgrading facilities this summer.