Utica Eisenhower senior Angelena Tripi attempts to tap the ball over the net Oct. 8 against Macomb Dakota. Tripi is one of two senior captains leading Ike this season.

Utica Eisenhower senior Angelena Tripi attempts to tap the ball over the net Oct. 8 against Macomb Dakota. Tripi is one of two senior captains leading Ike this season.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Ike volleyball steamrolling through league season

By: Jacob Herbert | Shelby - Utica News | Published October 19, 2020

  Ike senior Sydney Palazzolo readies a serve in a recent game against Dakota.

Ike senior Sydney Palazzolo readies a serve in a recent game against Dakota.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Advertisement

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Last season, the Utica Eisenhower volleyball team missed out on the Macomb Area Conference Red Division title by one match.

The Eagles finished 8-2 in the league, only trailing New Baltimore Anchor Bay who finished 9-1.

Ike came back with a vengeance this season and is 16-3 overall and 7-0 in the MAC Red at press time.

“I think the biggest element is how well they play together,” Eagles coach Caitlin LaPratt said about the hot start. “We have seven returning seniors and seven new girls to the team. The seven new players just have a lot of fun, and they have a lot of energy. Everyone is a hard worker, and I think the experience meshed in with these new kids is a great combination.”

The Eagles currently rank No. 6 among Division 1 teams in the latest Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association poll. Other teams included in the poll are Farmington Hills Mercy (No. 1), Clarkston High (No. 5), Bloomfield Hills Marian (No. 7), Lake Orion High (honorable mention) and Rochester Hills Stoney Creek (honorable mention).

With the exception of defending state champion Mercy, the Eagles have beat every other team on that list.

The ability to defeat some of the top teams in the state comes from Ike’s high-powered offense, according to LaPratt.

“One of our big strengths is our offense and our service,” LaPratt said. “With Sydney (Palazzolo) and Kira (Buza), they’re both Division 1 commits, and they play at a really high level that raises the play of everybody else. Everyone has worked hard to find their mark and do what’s needed individually.”

Another strength of the Eagles has been their senior leadership, with Palazzolo and Angelena Tripi taking the roles. Palazzolo has been with the varsity program for all four years, while Tripi is in her second season.

LaPratt said both players provide a good balance when it comes to their leadership. The coach said her captains lead more by example than they do vocally.

“They’re hard workers, they do their jobs well and they communicate with the team in the best way possible,” LaPratt said. “I couldn’t ask for more out of my captains.”

Despite an impressive first half of the season, LaPratt acknowledged that there’s still work to be done when it comes to improving her team. The Eagles once again are set to face Stoney Creek in a D-1 district first-round match at 5 p.m. Nov. 2 at home.

Over the next few weeks up until the playoffs start, Ike will be focusing on defense and ironing out any kinks or bad habits so they’re ready for the Cougars. The coach said her team is only as good as its weakest player, so getting everyone on the same page before the calendar turns to November is pivotal.

“I think defense wins championships, and I think last year that was something that we struggled with in the playoffs,” LaPratt said. “We have great hitters — that’s not a worry. We just have to hope that they’re having a good night, and I think they’ll be ready for that. But it’s the defensive end that we have to make sure we are locked in and covering properly.”

Advertisement