Mustangs set big goals for volleyball season
Editor’s note: The head coach of the West Grand volleyball team is Andrew Mericle. He was misidentified in a previous version of this report.
The frontend of West Grand’s volleyball schedule has done the Mustangs no favors this year, pitting West Grand against a state-ranked opponent in the team’s home opener last week.
On March 26, West Grand fell in three sets to Meeker following a week of spring break and spotty practices for the Mustangs. Ranked No. 5 in Class 2A coming into the season, Meeker owned the contest the first two frames 25-11 and 25-13 before the Mustangs came to life in the third, played the Cowgirls tight and fell 25-21 to close out.
West Grand played Paonia on the road the day after Meeker and lost in five sets. Having faced two strong teams so early in the season during spring break, the Mustangs have a 1-2 record.
“It was tough; I don’t think we were fully ready,” West Grand coach Andrew Mericle said of the team’s home opener. “The thing I like about this match, though, is that we were right there in the third set, so I feel like our talent is there with (Meeker). We had two pretty scraggly sets, but the third set really gave me a lot of confidence, because we can hang with them, and we did.”
West Grand has three juniors who will be leading the way for the team’s success this year — Alex Schake, Audree Miller and Maddy Probst. “We expect a lot out of them,” the coach said.
The trio came into the season with a ton of varsity experience from last season, but they also will have to step up with the graduations of Emma DeSanti and Mikayla Shearer in 2020, a year when West Grand won the regional tournament and earned a trip to state.
“It’s an adjustment,” Mericle said of moving other girls up. “Those are two big holes to fill, especially Emma. I think some of the players — this early in the season — are still kind of looking around for her and she’s not there. We’re bringing them together and learning to live without her.”
Sage Lechman is one of the team’s sophomores who also played a lot of varsity games last year, and she will likely be one key for West Grand this year, too.
“She’s still got a little bit of learning to do, but her athletic skills are off the charts,” Mericle said.
If you ask the coach, the Mustangs have “big goals” for the season. Not only do they want to contend for the Class 2A Western Slope title, they would like to host a regional game and earn another trip to state if they can.
“That’s our plan, to get into regionals, get a spot in state and do the best we can from there,” Mericle said.
That could be more difficult this season. The state tournament has been cut down to eight teams with a single elimination format, which will tighten the number who make the trip by half.
The Mustangs are three games through a their 14 game schedule, all of which are league contests, save one when West Grand plays Middle Park on April 13.
“We love to play them, and they love to play us,” Mericle said of the purple-game rivalry. “We get that one at home, so maybe that’ll help us.”
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