PREP VOLLEYBALL PREVIEW '09: KW remains confident despite graduating big-time talent

  • BY Wire Service
  • Thursday, September 3, 2009 2:21pm
  • NewsSports

The message is succinct and clear.

Don’t count out the Kentwood High volleyball team.

On paper, some might look past the Conquerors this fall. After all, they graduated half of last year’s first-team All-South Puget Sound League North Division squad: Jessie Genger, Lauren Campbell, Stephanie Shumaker and Katie Grajewski. All were first-teamers; Genger and Campbell were even the North Division’s co-MVPs.

All four, along with Jocy McKenzie, are playing in college these days, which says a little something about the program.

But while many of Kentwood’s stars have moved on to bigger things, the program will remain on the same level as before, coach Bil Caillier insists.

“I think we’re going to be better than a lot of people think,” said Caillier, who enters his eighth season with a 187-56 overall record, including five straight state berths and four consecutive league titles.

“I don’t know where it all starts,” Caillier continued. “We score everything in practice. We try and make competition with everything we do. I think by the time the players get to varsity, they know how to compete.”

Of course, the Conquerors are – and have been for quite some time – about more than just competing. This is a program built on success. Matter of fact, this year’s team will enter league play on Sept. 23 having won 51 straight North Division matches.

A big part of that success stems from the program’s overall depth. When one star player graduates, another one or two comes up from the junior varsity and blossoms.

“There’s just a different mentality when you’re in a program that has been winning for a lot of years,” said Caillier, who guided the Conquerors to a 31-3 overall record and third-place finish at state last year.

Which helps explain how the Conquerors still can be considered a North Division favorite despite graduating most of their heavy hitters. Instead of rebuilding this season, Kentwood will do what it has done the last several years: reload.

For the Conquerors, that reloading means players who didn’t have as big of role last year – such as Erin Campbell, Elle Mortensen, Lychelle Roberts-Kirby and Ally Patterson – will be asked to take a big step forward this year.

And as has been the case since he took over the program in 2002, Caillier has confidence in the players he is putting on the floor.

“Our approach is just to get better, that’s our goal every year,” Caillier said. “I’m optimistic.”

But is there enough firepower to advance to state for a sixth straight season?

“Absolutely,” the coach said.

Succinct and clear enough.

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