Source: Hometown Life
Author: Dan O'Meara
Long a power in the sport of girls volleyball, Farmington Hills Mercy might reach new heights in the 2016 campaign. Coach Loretta Vogel begins her eighth season at the school and her 40th overall with what could be one of her best teams. Potentially, the Class A Marlins, who are ranked No. 5 in the first statewide coaches poll, will have one of their best attacks, featuring an array of powerful hitters.
"In other years, we had a number of girls who, when they went off to club, played defensive positions and, when they came back to Mercy, they needed to be hitters," Vogel said. "This year, we have girls who played club and are definitely attacks.
"Coming back to the high school program this year, it's a little easier. We've always been very fortunate, but this year the hitting situation is at a higher level. They have more experience as hitters."
Mercy returns a pair of all-area hitters in junior outside Lauren Hunter, a third-year starter on the varsity who made the coaches all-state third team, and senior middle Kennedy Kuffner. Both are 5-foot-10 and all-around players who excel on defense, too. "The two of them are identical players for us," Vogel said, adding Kennedy is "that little niche that keeps everyone together."
Five-foot-11 senior middle blocker Bella McDonald is another player who can pound the ball and begins her third season on the varsity. "Bella just had a fabulous tournament last week at Mount Morris," Vogel said. "She was very successful at the net and on the attack, at beginning the defense for us."
Six-foot senior Jordyn Kreucher is another veteran middle who will be part of the rotation again. The Marlins also return 5-8 senior outside Sydney Hughes and 5-11 sophomore Emily Susitko for added depth to the attack.
The front court will be further strengthened by the addition of two more 6-footers: senior middle Michelle Greenwood, who was injured last year and played on the JV team, and freshman outside Jessica Mruzik, who will be the No. 1 left front.
"She is clearly the most talented freshman in the state," Vogel said, adding Mruzik is an all-around player, too. "I've been very fortunate to have some very talented people to worked with. Jessica is right up there with the top five.
"She has blended in beautifully with this team. It's just great chemistry that we have on the team." The most important factor in Mercy's potent attack is the player who makes it all work. Senior Liz Susitko returns as the team's starting setter. "Just having Liz back, having played at a high level, that's a major factor for us as a team," Vogel said. "She's good at getting the ball to the right people. If you have a good setter, she determines the outcome of matches."
Defensively, senior specialist Allie Sanderson will have a big role to play in the back row. She will share the libero position with sophomore Grace Kane. Sophomore hitters Logan Beyer and Mallory Conrad also join the varsity.
The Marlins, who were 56-14-1 and regional runners-up to state champion Novi, played their third tournament Friday at Temperance Bedford. In earlier competition, Mercy was a semifinalist at Lake Orion, losing to No. 2-ranked Northville in a third set, 15-12, and finished first at Mount Morris. "It’s a nice beginning for the Marlins," Vogel said. "My goal as a coach is to improve every week. When one practice ends, I'm thinking about things we need to work on the next day.
"(The Marlins) are a joy to work with. As a coach, going into each day, they are receptive to what we have to work on. Not every coach gets that opportunity. These young women present that."