GROTON -- For Groton-Dunstable volleyball coach Lisa Lapierre, last season's march to the program's first district appearance was a dream come true. After losing seven players from last year's 13-7 squad, Lapierre will look to a talented group of holdovers and new faces to try to bring the Lady Crusaders back to the post-season in 2012.
"We have a lot of new pieces that we need to see how they fit together," said Lapierre. "I know we have the talent and desire, but any time you lose a large amount of players from a successful team, it takes a while for the new team to gel. How quickly we come together as a team will most likely decide how this season goes."
A quartet of seniors will lead Groton-Dunstable into the season. Setter Riley Rodgers, outside hitter Shannon Spang and middle hitters Leanne Mueller and Alexa Busser will be counted upon to provide leadership and guidance to a relatively young squad. "Riley is a versatile player who has played some middle hitter for us as well," said Lapierre. "She is entering her third year as a starter and is a leader both by example and vocally. Riley is extremely athletic; she covers a lot of ground and is a great kid who is easy to coach.
"Shannon is a leader on the court and is great at communicating during the game. Her work ethic is outstanding, and she is a strong hitter who places the ball well. Leanne has great size at the net and is moving back to middle hitter this season. She is aggressive with her hitting and does a great job at adjusting to the ball while in the air. Alexa is very skilled and has really improved in the off-season in all facets of her game. She does not have a lot of weakness, and I believe she is poised to have a breakout year for us."
Rounding out the starting lineup for the Lady Crusaders will be junior setter Katie Harte and sophomore outside hitter Courtney Hartzell. "Katie does a great job of covering a lot of court with her speed," said Lapierre. "She is not afraid to throw her body around and has a nose for the ball. Courtney is very strong upfront, hits the ball well but also is a good passer. She has outstanding potential and really has had a good pre-season. They are both in their first year on varsity but are expected to contribute right away."
A trio of juniors will be among the first off the bench for Groton-Dunstable. Libero Katrina Kangwijaya and outside hitters Sarah Georges and Kim Contonio will all be in the mix for a lot of playing time. "Katrina is our defensive specialist who also is an excellent passer," said Lapierre. "She is a solid player who can be counted upon to make the right play all the time.
"Sarah has a great attitude and is a hard worker. She is solid defensively and is really improving her hitting as the pre-season has progressed. Kim is a consistent player who gives a complete effort every day. She is coachable and is working hard on her game."
Completing the Lady Crusaders roster are sophomore middle hitters Jamie Debreceni and Alex Pray and freshman setter Rose O'Malley. "Jamie has had a great off-season and is a very strong player," said Lapierre. "She is a good defensive player who has really made progress on the offensive end.
"Alex is athletic and very business-like on the court. She is absorbing all of the info I am throwing at her and improving every day. Rose is a transfer in from the Midwest who is an excellent server of the ball. She can cover the floor and does a bit of everything. Rose is a welcome addition to the team."
While there are a lot of new faces, Lapierre believes this team has what it takes to make it back-to-back district appearances. "I believe we have a team that can play in the post-season," said Lapierre. "We have talent and we have a group that is eager to build off the success of last season and keep laying the groundwork for the program to become a consistent play-off participant."