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September 12, 2012

Hazel Park volleyball hopes to be a contender in the OAA Blue

By Mark Vest
C & G Sports Writer

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Hazel Park volleyball hopes to be a contender in the OAA Blue
Hazel Park’s Tiffany Dessert makes a play on the ball in a recent game against Lamphere. Coach Sue Stuef has big plans for the future of Hazel Park’s program.

Last season, Hazel Park’s volleyball team finished with a record of 7-13-2.

Though it finished with a sub-.500 record, coach Sue Stuef believes her team was showing signs of improvement at the end of the season and gaining momentum.

The problem was that with the graduation of seven players, Stuef wasn’t sure if that momentum would carry over into the 2012 campaign.

While she does believe the program is still in the building process, Stuef has now seen enough to make her think that her current squad might just be able to pick up where the 2011 team left off last season. She has liked some of what she has observed in game action, as well as practice, and believes the opportunity is there for the Vikings to trend upward in the standings.

In fact, Stuef’s goal is for Hazel Park to win the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division and have a strong showing in the postseason. The program has experienced a long title drought, and Stuef is hoping that her current squad can help change that.

“That’s always your goal,” she said. “We want to win the division. We were 2-5 in our division last year, and I totally expect us to (be) much improved over that this year. We would like to go much further in the districts than we did. We lost in the first match (to Warren Lincoln). We really felt like we should have won that game. I think we got everything on the upswing now. We’re way ahead of where we were a year ago. I think we’ve got a chance to do some really good things this year.”

Felisha Paholsky, Courtney Coombs, Stephanie Toma and Micah Unternahrer are just some of the players Steuf is enthused about, and she is looking to them to help lead the way for the Vikings.

Along with her coach, Coombs also has high hopes for the Vikings. She would like to help turn Hazel Park’s volleyball program into a winning one.

“It would mean a lot, because I’ve been (on) the varsity team since my freshman year,” she said. “To see it grow into this really good team would be a really good feeling for me.”

Stuef and assistant coaches Stephanie Jentzen, Allie Langwald and Nicole Mabee are all graduates of Hazel Park High School. Stuef believes that a coaching staff filled with former Vikings helps bring an extra level of commitment and passion to getting the program turned around.

Another benefit of having her staff in place is that it allows for each of the positions on the team to receive specialized coaching. Langwald graduated in 2007, and when she suited up for the Vikings, there was one head coach and one assistant.

She believes having four coaches on the squad could pay big dividends.

“It’s really cool to see how Hazel Park’s progressing and trying to turn the program around,” Langwald said. “Every position is covered. It’s a lot better now because kids get individual attention. … I think it’s going to greatly improve the program.”

Mabee shares a similar sentiment.

“It helps a lot that we have different coaches to focus on different areas,” she said. “When I was here, we didn’t even have a setting coach. Now, it’s nice to break up (into different groups), and hopefully utilize the time we get with them.”

Stuef and her assistants are looking to build a solid foundation for the future of volleyball at Hazel Park. It is her hope that all of the steps that are being taken to strengthen the program will result in some good days ahead.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mark Vest at mvest@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1112. Twitter Follow Mark on Twitter.