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Published September 12, 2012

Southfield-Lathrup volleyball under new leadership

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Southfield-Lathrup volleyball players, from left, Alyah Smith, Yakaysia Jackson and Rhaja Skipper are looking to make the Chargers a force in the OAA Blue.

New Southfield-Lathrup volleyball coach Chris Ruff sees the building of his program as a three-year project, but he’s already pleased with what he’s seeing in the first few months.

The Chargers hadn’t played a game yet at press time, so Ruff admits he’s not sure what exactly he has on the court, but he said the team is progressing in practice.

“They’re just learning my format, the things I want them to do,” Ruff said. “I (want them) to approach it the right way along with having the right attitude toward the game.”

The new coach said he’s not setting any goals in terms of wins.

“We’re going to be in it. This year’s only goal is to put Lathrup back on the map,” he said.

The coach has a handful of players who he believes can help achieve that goal.

Ruff’s offense is largely based on his setter making the right reads, passes and taking a shot when it’s there. He’s counting heavily on junior Deja Travis to handle the job.

In the middle, he has senior Alyah Smith to put shots away.

“She’s going to be one of my most important leaders on the court,” the coach said. “She’s most definitely going to be my go-to person.”

On the outside are hitters senior Yakaysia Jackson and junior Taylor Mitchell.

Sophomore DJ Avellanosa is the libero.

“She’s going to be a force to be reckoned with in the back row,” Ruff said of his libero.

Senior Rhaja Skipper, and juniors Camri Nelson and Matera Stewart, join Avellanosa in the back row.

Lathrup has had its struggles in years past, and Ruff, who coached Detroit International Academy last season and has 30 years of experience on the sideline, believes he can turn the program around.

“My ultimate goal is to have a freshmen, JV and varsity, with all three teams being reckoned with,” he said. “When anyone sees that they’re playing Lathrup, they know it’s going to be a game — that we’re not going to just lay down.

“We’re going to be all right. I’m ready to get started.”

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