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October 3, 2012

Pontiac Notre Dame Prep volleyball rolling through competition

By Christian Davis
C & G Sports Writer

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Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s Jacqueline Vyskocil, left, and Ashley Knutson celebrate a point in a match earlier this season.

It was an early season scrimmage when Pontiac Notre Dame Prep volleyball coach Betty Wroubel first sensed that her team might have what it takes to make it a memorable season.

The Fighting Irish took on perennial power Bloomfield Hills Marian and held their own.

“That was encouraging to see early on. (Marian) is a very good team,” Wroubel said. “We were able to hit, able to attack and able to defend. I thought we had something special if we were able to let it grow and nurture it.”

With only three seniors, Prep lacks experience but has still played well enough to stand at 29-5-3 overall and have three tournament championships on its résumé this season. It was 5-1 in the Catholic High School League AA Division at press time.

Wroubel said team chemistry has been the key to success.

“They play for each other, and that’s tough to beat sometimes. Everyone finds a way to contribute, and they are genuinely happy for each other,” the coach said. “It’s as united as a team that I’ve ever coached.”

Wroubel’s main concern coming in was finding a new setter, but those worries were quickly dismissed with the play of sophomores Ashley Knutson and Hannah Antosz.

“They’ve stepped up and done a great job for us,” Wroubel said.

The coach added that outside hitters Katherine Carlson and Danielle McCormick have provided offensive and defensive power.

Wroubel said that there is still plenty of room to improve.

“We’re getting close, but our defense has to get better; our serving has to get better; and we have to put on a better attack,” she said. “We rely an awful lot on (McCormick) and (Carlson). I’d like to see our middles get more involved.”

Along with the talent and chemistry, Wroubel pointed to her assistant coaches as a main reason why the program is competitive.

Assistant coaches Ryan Minarik and Jenilee Rathje are new to the program. Rathje, a 2012 graduate of Michigan State University, was named All-America her senior season on the volleyball team.

Minarik joins the Irish with a plethora of coaching experience at the varsity level from his time with other programs.

“I wish I was as smart as my assistants, but I was smart to bring them on board,” Wroubel joked.

Veteran assistants Lenny Tuttle and Tanya Carlson make up the rest of the staff. They’ve been with the program for 14 and 16 years, respectively.

Even with the staff, skill, and unity that the Irish have exemplified, Wroubel isn’t looking ahead at just how special of a season this could be.

“We even avoided talking about winning a state championship the season we did win a state championship. We focus on the things that will make us successful. We figure that if we can serve well and do the little things well, winning takes care of itself. If we don’t win, then we figure there was nothing else we could have done,” she said. “It’s been a great time, and it’ll be a sad moment no matter when it ends this season, whether it’s in Battle Creek or in Clawson where our district is. They’re just such a great group of kids.”