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September 11, 2013

Stevenson volleyball team hopes wealth of seniors, experience leads to success

By Jason Carmel Davis
C & G Sports Writer

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The Sterling Heights Stevenson volleyball team is going after its third straight league title. Pictured is Titans senior outside hitter Emma Puzzuoli during the 2013 Macomb County Kickoff Classic.

STERLING HEIGHTS — Sterling Heights Stevenson senior setter Regan Miller said she thinks it’s great that the program has won the last two Macomb Area Conference White Division titles, but they want more this season.

“I want more than a league title,” said Miller, named Titans captain this season by coach Paul Drdul. “We want playoff success, too. We have to be scrappier and more aggressive at the net, and scrappier on defense. We all have to be more aggressive.”

Drdul, in his sixth season as Stevenson coach, said he believes having six seniors on the squad could help in his team’s quest for a third straight MAC White title. Each of those six seniors played last season — most in starting roles.

The Titans (12-4-0 at press time) had just two seniors in 2012, when they went 32-17-3. This year’s six seniors are outside hitter/defensive specialist Emma Puzzuoli, outside hitter Adriana Dostine, defensive specialist/libero Sara Ciaramella, middle hitter Jessica Dailey, middle hitter Shelby Herrmann and Miller.

“You would think they would be able to learn from the seniors last year and be able to repeat that (success),” Drdul said. “I think our league, as a whole, is stronger than last year, though. Nothing is going to be easy or given to us. It’s going to be a tough conference to win for sure.”

Drdul said his team’s success hinges on how it plays from game to game. He said the majority of Stevenson’s matches — against Grosse Pointe South, Anchor Bay and Romeo — would all be tough.

The Titans’ coach said whichever team can win on the road may prove to be atop the MAC White at the end of the regular season.

Miller said the team early on has worked to improve on its serving and receiving. She said they must continue to hone their communication and blocking skills if they are to have another strong season.

Drdul also said blocking is key, and that the Titans must use their wealth of height to stop opponents’ scoring opportunities. He said Stevenson must get consistent play from its middle hitters and blockers, too, and that the majority of the team’s defensive players are new to the team.

“I just think we need to take practice seriously every day, and everyone needs to stay on the same page and stay motivated in the same ways and focus on one goal,” Miller said.

Drdul said he’s hopeful that having six seniors and three juniors on a 13-player roster starts to show, and that the experience can wear opposing teams down. He said it’s too early in the season to test that theory, though, but he is optimistic about his team’s prospects.

“You hope we get good senior leadership. Our seniors should lead the way, first and foremost,” Drdul said. “Our younger players are very talented. If they can get used to the routine of practice and the speed of the game, I think we’ll be good.”

The Titans next hit the court for a match against Clinton Township Chippewa Valley, set for 7 p.m. Sept. 12 at Chippewa Valley.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Jason Carmel Davis at jdavis@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1107. Twitter Follow Jason on Twitter.