Youth is served with All-Valley volleyball awards

The Merrill volleyball team parlayed a runner-up season in their first year back in the Valley into a strong showing on the All-WVC team.

Junior outside hitter Jess Sabey was the only unanimous selection to the First Team and junior libero Kaylin Byer was designated to the Second Team. Senior middle hitter/blocker Sam Hojan, sophomore setter/ hitter Lindsay Krueger and freshman middle hitter/blocker Renee Sladek all received Honorable Mention.

“Jess was voted first team because she is a force to be reckoned with on offense,” MHS coach Steph Nelson said. “She is our kill leader with 435 with a kill percentage of 45.6%, which is 2nd best on our team. She is an extremely intelligent player who knows where to hit and when and also plays great defense. She struggled a little on her serving, but it’s because she is not the type of player to play it safe; she plays aggressive both as a hitter and as a server. Other teams change their defense just for her.

“Kaylin is by far our best passer with 607 total digs. So many teams are told not to hit it to her because of her athleticism and ability to make some great plays. She is extremely game-smart as well; she’s always going to the right position and adjusting herself based on our players as well as other teams. She also is a very reliable server having only missed 13 all season and also scoring 24 aces.

“Renee is also a person that teams practice and change how they play against. She can hit hard and in extremely hard places to defend. She was second on our team in kills with 262, and had the best kill percentage with 57.1%. Defensively, she leads the team in both block solos and block assists with 46 and 45 respectively. She is extremely athletic and hard working. She was also a very reliable server only having missed 6 serves all season.

“Lindsay is easily one of the best setters in the conference. She led our team with 508 assists, but she does so much more than that. She also was third on our team in kills with 167, and second in digs with 406. She, too, was a reliable server with 21 aces and only 9 missed serves all season. Her athleticism helps her team to start great offensive opportunities, and she is extremely good at the tricky ‘dump’ over the net.

“Sam improved greatly this season. She has the ability to tip and hit to unexpected places and has become one of our go-to girls. She had the other teams trying to guess where she was going because on most plays she went somewhere else; very unpredictable. She was fourth on the team with 163 kills and second in block solos with 22, and tied for 2nd in block assists with 34.”

The Jays will return numerous starters next year. Hojan, Brittany Grosskurth, Andi English, Megan Zuelsdorff and Rachel Mueller were the only seniors.

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