LCN volleyball prepares for second season in MAC White

By: Timothy Pontzer | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published September 13, 2017

 Macomb L’Anse Creuse North junior Lauren Bayless hits a shot during a match with Macomb Lutheran North Aug. 18. At press time, the Crusaders held an 11-3-1 record.

Macomb L’Anse Creuse North junior Lauren Bayless hits a shot during a match with Macomb Lutheran North Aug. 18. At press time, the Crusaders held an 11-3-1 record.

Photo by Deb Jacques

MACOMB — Last year, the Macomb L’Anse Creuse North volleyball team saw its season end with a district semifinal defeat to Macomb Dakota.

Less than a week into the 2017 campaign, the Crusaders were able to exact revenge on the Cougars, topping the local rival twice in a tournament. LCN won both matches in the annual Macomb Area Conference Kickoff Opener Aug. 18 at Dakota.

“That was an excellent way to start off the year. We were very pleased,” LCN coach Denise Sargent said. “Any time you can beat Dakota, it builds confidence. They’re state ranked and well-known. We took both games in the pool, which was really exciting for my girls, a big boost for the program.”

That boost has buoyed the club to an 11-3-1 record at press time. Sargent believes 2017 could have the makings of a great season, citing a core of seasoned veterans.

“We have a really, really good nucleus here. Some of these girls have been playing since their freshman year,” Sargent said. “This should be a good year for us. We have really strong players that are sophomores that made the team as freshmen last year. Our bench is very strong, which is always a factor.”

Sargent admits her team was young last year with three freshmen starting. Now the club has more experience, sporting four seniors, five juniors and those three sophomores.

“You try to build your team so you don’t lose a big chunk and just keep maintaining experience,” Sargent said. “I really don’t think we have one big strength this year. We’re pretty consistent in all parts of the game. If we have a weakness, it’s our blocking, but we’ve been working hard on that. Offensively, we have several different hitters, not just one. Having a lot of options to go to makes it tough on a defense.”

Sargent pointed to a pair of outside hitters, senior Delaney Nichols and sophomore Leah Beniewicz as two of those options.

“Both of them hit really well, giving us a lot of different looks,” Sargent said. “They’re big offensive threats, and that always makes my job easier.”

Nichols agreed with her coach, citing the club’s hitting as LCN’s top way to score.

“We can be really good at other things, but I think our swings are the most consistent,” she said. “My expectations for this year would be to finally play as one unit. The past few years, I feel like we’ve played as individuals, but I think this could be our year if we play as one.”

Defensively, Sargent looks to a pair of sisters to lead the way. Senior Gabby Starnes serves as libero and is joined by freshman Kelsey Starnes who is a defensive specialist.

“The sisters run our defense, and they’ve been doing a great job,” Sargent said. “It must be a sister thing. They play right next to each other, playing well and knowing how to help each other out.”

LCN enters its second season in the MAC White. A promotion was earned after winning the Gold twice and the Blue twice as well. The Crusaders placed third in the new grouping last year, and while it snapped the streak of league crowns, Sargent was pleased with the result.

“We were right in the middle of the pack,” Sargent said. “I was very happy with the competition. Our goal is to continue to be competitive in the White. I think that we may have a shot of moving up one place or winning it, and the girls think they can do it too. There are a lot of good teams there, and that helps prepare us for the playoffs.”

LCN’s postseason slate will feature a district containing Dakota, New Baltimore Anchor Bay, Romeo High and Port Huron Northern.

“Our district has the toughest teams in the MAC,” Sargent said. “There’s not a weak team there; instead, they are all teams that can win state championships. Our goal is to keep making a name for ourselves and become a team that is recognized like they are. We eventually want to get to the Red, and our program is definitely progressing that way.”