After overcoming the losses of several key players in the starting lineup the previous year, last season was another successful one for Coach Skye Wade and the Aurora Lady Houns. Despite an even record throughout the season and a squad inexperienced in the playoff atmosphere, the team stepped up when it mattered most to win another district championship.
Now, Coach Wade and a trio of key seniors are back for more and looking to defend the title. With the season just weeks away, Coach Wade answered some of the biggest questions leading up to another year of Aurora volleyball.
Q: Last year your team won a second consecutive district title with just one senior who played in a majority of sets. You entered the district tournament as a three-seed. What came together for your team to be able to come back and beat two teams in the district tournament that beat you in the regular season?
A: Our team focused on the aspect that District was to win and keep going or lose and go home. We knew all the teams at that time were playing well -- our girls really just pushed and focused on what they had to do to win.
Q: What has the postseason experience done for the motivation of the returning players to get back and try to make an even deeper run?
A: Postseason experience has helped show our athletes what type of level they would like to play at. The athletes have worked extremely hard this summer and have pushed each other both physically and mentally.
Q: Brooke Bellamy earned all-conference honors as a junior. What makes her such a force at the net to be able to lead you in blocks and finish second in kills?
A: Brooke is athletic. Her athleticism allows her to get to areas to be big at the net. Coming into her senior year, I have seen Brooke grow as an attacking leader and wanting the ball more often to make something happen. Excited to see what she will bring to the court.
Q: How will her role change in her senior year now that Julia McVey (your leading hitter and All-State player) has graduated leaving behind big shoes to fill?
A: Brooke had transitioned to a six-rotation player last season. Her defense [in the] back row is going to be one of her strong suits to add to the front row tenacity she will bring.
Q: Gabi McVey earned All-Conference honors as a freshman. What allowed her to have so much success running the offense at setter right away?
A: Gabie is a fantastic setter. Even being as young as she is she has a high IQ of the game of volleyball. This allows her to be coached in a way that usually only upperclassmen are coached.
Q: What growth have you seen out of her in the off-season?
A: Gabie has grown in the off-season by taking more ownership of the offenses and the calls that are made. I am excited to see the connections she has been making with our hitters.
Q: Kortney Juracek led your team in digs and serve-receives. What makes her such a special defensive player?
A. Kortney has a calmness but spunky personality and I think that shows on the court. At times she is controlled and ready defensively and at others, she is able to pull the spunky out to go after ball defensively.
Q: What are your expectations for her as a senior?
A: We will be looking for Kortney for composure this season. She has really grown into this role and I am excited to see how she continues to take on the leadership role of Libero.
Q: Which other returning players will impact the varsity lineup?
A: Sommer Gatewood, senior, defensive specialist; Belle Marquier, junior, middle; Olivia Gibson, junior, outside; Brookelynn Sandoval, junior, right side; Hannah Hudson, sophomore, middle. Loved what I saw out of these athletes this off-season, I can't wait to see what the season brings for each of these girls!
Q: Who are some new faces (former JV, freshmen, transfers) that will impact the varsity lineup?
A: Hannah Hudson is a new face for our varsity squad. She was able to play a little with us last year at critical injury points. Looking for Hannah to be a force at the net with her blocking this season.
Q: What will your team’s biggest strength be this year?
A: Our biggest strength is when we work together and become united in everything we do. We would like to focus on being "unstoppable" in moments on the court -- gaining experience throughout the season for it to all come together.
Q: What will your team need to improve on the most to be successful?
A: Confidence in seeing what I see in them and how I believe in them.
Q: What are the expectations for Aurora volleyball this season?
A: Together being Unstoppable.