Spartan Volleyball to enter season with lofty goals

The Grundy Center volleyball team enters the 2023 season with sky-high goals and expectations. With all but one starter back from last year’s 31-13 team that made it to the regional final, the Spartans have set a goal to make their first state tournament appearance since 2019.

Carlie Willis enters her senior season after ranking fourth in Iowa with 596 kills last year. She’s joined by fellow outside hitter Shirley Monaghan and right side hitter Paige Venenga, who will lead a potent offense. Head Coach Lori Willis expects to spread the wealth and use their best players in as many places as possible.

"Carlie took too many swings last year, we absolutely needed to do that," Willis says. "From a coaching perspective, we don't like that, we don't want her to take that many swings. This year, we're looking forward to dialing that back a little bit and being more balanced. The more balanced you are with attackers, the better of a team you are because teams can't gang up on one person. We're also trying to utilize Shirley and Carlie all over the court. We've got Paige Venenga, who's our lefty on the right side. She has shown great promise. Her swing is getting great. It's a lot faster and more lethal, and she's playing with more confidence."

Along with the hitting power, senior Ellery Luhring will be back as a three-year starter at setter.

Willis says while her team is talented on paper, they will need to prove it while facing a tough schedule with several ranked NICL teams and diverse competition at weekend tournaments.

"There's a lot of buzz about us right now in the volleyball world. And rightfully so. We've put in the time, we've got a lot of determination. That's coming from disappointment of not making it last year, the year before, the year before. So I feel like this team is driven to do that. It's all great to talk about it, but we have to do it. Day in and day out. We're going to have a target on our back. There's going to be people who fear us and don't want to play us, and there's going to be people who do and go after us. We have to be on our guard for that. We have to be able to get better every single day, because let's face it, every team is going to get better as well."

The Spartans will begin the season by hosting a quad with AGWSR, Hudson and Waverly-Shell Rock on Tuesday, August 22.

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