the early success of this year's Plymouth Christian Academy volleyball
team, depth and experience are waaayyy
With only nine girls on the roster -- and just one senior -- the Eagles soared above most of their competition during the first-third of their schedule, going 7-1-1 while placing first in the Huron Valley Lutheran tournament
"We're a very young team, which has some disadvantages," said second-year coach Kelly Blackney. "But there are so many advantages that come with our youth. The girls are all fresh, energetic and passionate about the sport. This team plays well together, too, and they get along off the court as well as they do on it."
While many Division 1 teams carry a minimum of 12 players on their rosters -- with the majority sporting 14-player rosters -- PCA is doing just fine with nine, Blackney said.
"With a smaller team like I have, I can give more attention to each girl," she said. "I can spend more time with them than I could if we had 14 players on our roster.
"There are some disadvantages, too, like today when we had two girls out sick, we only had seven at practice. Having a short bench means that every player has to have their best game every match, because there aren't a lot of subs. The girls know that when they're on the court, they have to play their guts out and play hard."
PCA carries one exceptionally unique distinction: It is led by two sophomore captains -- Amy Zinn and Kristin Malcolm. The situation may be rare, but it is justified, Blackney said, considering the two 10th-graders possess leadership qualities and loads of talent.
"When the girls voted for captains, the results were weighted heavily for Kristin and Amy," she said. "They may be young, but they're leaders, both with the way they encourage their teammates vocally and the way they show it on the court by working hard themselves."
Zinn has made a smooth position change this fall.
"Amy was our setter last year as a freshman because we had no one else who could set," said Blackney. "She had never set before, but she's the kind of athlete who can rise to the occasion. She's a smart player who does what the coach asks her to do.
"This year we didn't need a setter so Amy moved to outside hitter. She went to some camps this summer to learn how to hit and she has adapted very well. She's one of our best defensive players and passers, too."
Malcolm has established herself as one of the top middle blockers in the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference.
"Kristin did a lot of work during the off-season and she played for a club team as a freshman, so she fills a very big role for us," Blackney said. "She does an amazing job. She wants to be the best she can be all the time, so she pushes herself more than anybody else pushes her."
Taking over the role of setter from Zinn is junior Brianna Harris.
"We couldn't run the offense without her," said Blackney. "Brianna is a very committed leader and is very vocal on the court. She sets well no matter where she is on the court because she hustles."
Abby Bartes will handle the Eagles' libero duties this season after missing her sophomore year with a knee injury.
"Abby hustles, she's quick and she's smart," Blackney said, listing Bartes' many assets.
Joining Malcolm as a front-row force is junior Folake Olojo, who played for recently-closed Canton Agape Christian last year.
"Folake is a great middle hitter," Blackney said. "She can jump really high. I think her hang time is about five minutes."
The Eagles' lone senior is Ariel Rock, who will serve as an outside hitter.
"When she's on, she's on," said Blackney. "I'm glad she's on our team."
The Eagles' primary right-side hitter will be junior Kristin Nill, who Blackney praised for her skill and work ethic.
"Kristin has worked so hard during the off-season," she said. "She's improved so much."
Sophomores Jessica Rich and Rachel Zandee will provide the Eagles with solid back-row play.
Ed Wright can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or (734) 453-1980.