Rochester High senior libero Ryan Allor returns a volley in a match earlier this season. Allor is set to play for Oakland University next year.

Rochester High senior libero Ryan Allor returns a volley in a match earlier this season. Allor is set to play for Oakland University next year.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Rochester High playing best volleyball at the right time

By: Jacob Herbert | Rochester Post | Published October 9, 2018


ROCHESTER HILLS — With less than a month left in the regular season, it’s getting down to crunch time for volleyball teams across the state. Teams that have the chance to make a run in the postseason hope to be playing their best volleyball at the right time.

One team that is right where it wants to be is Rochester High. At press time, the Falcons were 3-3 in the Oakland Activities Association White Division.  

First-year varsity coach Kirk Gibbs admitted that there were struggles at the beginning of the season with a new face at the helm. Gibbs spent 13 years with the junior varsity program.

“Even though they know me, it becomes a ‘what is he really looking for, and how is he going to be different than the last two we had,’” he said.

Gibbs took some time at the beginning of the season to rearrange the chess pieces and put his players in a position on the court where they will truly succeed. He also changed the Falcons’ strategy on the court, asking them to play more of a high-tempo game. He wants them to take more chances, which is something other coaches didn’t ask.

With only six seniors on the team, Gibbs has had to ask some younger players to step up. He said they’ve delivered. Sophomore Molly Rodgers is one of those players. Gibbs said she has been blocking players who you’re not supposed to be able to block.

Senior Ryan Allor, who is the team’s libero, will be heading to Oakland University next year to play. Gibbs called her “one of the best liberos in the state.” Senior Kaitlyn Kennedy, one of the team’s hitters, has a “good chance” of playing for Grand Valley State University after high school. Seniors Kristina Bette and Sailor Mayes are part of the back row that has been an issue for opposing teams this season.

“Most coaches all year have talked about our (back row) and how frustrating we are for them,” Gibbs said. “They’re not used to seeing that many good passers.”

Another issue for the Falcons this season has been health. Pegi Laci missed some time with a concussion, but she has since returned and has played a huge hand in the team clicking.

With all the problems in their rearview mirror, team confidence is at an all-time high. The team believes it can compete with anyone, and that is in large part due to the senior leadership.

“All of our seniors are so good with the younger kids,” Gibbs said. “They’ve made them feel accepted. They make a mistake and they’re like, ‘Hey, you know what you’ve got to do,’ and they pump them up again. It’s really been a lot of fun this year.”

The team has been getting better each week as the season has gone along. Gibbs said it’s up to the girls whether or not they want to make a run in the playoffs. The Falcons drew Utica Eisenhower in the first round of districts. The Eagles have given the Falcons trouble in years past.

But this year it’s different. Gibbs said his team is looking forward to playing Eisenhower instead of shying away from it, as was the case in years past.

At the end of the day, more wins than losses is ultimately what the team wants to see. The Falcons want to win districts because anything can happen after that. But there’s a more important goal that Gibbs outlined for his team and will continue to be at the forefront of accomplishments.

“My goal always is to have them enjoy it,” he said. “You could be undefeated, but if you didn’t have fun, then it was not a successful season. The girls are enjoying it; they’re having a good time. It’s like a family.”