LAINGSBURG — There is a whole new look this fall for Laingsburg’s volleyball program.
The Wolfpack reached the 2017 Class C state championship match, falling to No.-1-ranked Bronson. But many faces from that historic team have moved on, including that of coach Tennille Whitmore — who led Laingsburg to three consecutive regional championships and three straight 40-win seasons.
Whitmore is now the head coach at Haslett High School. Three Class C All-State players graduated — All-Area Player of the Year and first team All-State hitter Maya Ferland, as well as second team All-Staters Alex Randall and Sophie Strieff. Starting setter Grace Gregg is also gone.
Laingsburg’s new coach is Michelle Emmer, who led the Laingsburg junior varsity team to a 42-5-7 season last fall. Emmer has been with the Wolfpack for 19 years, 18 as the head coach of the JV team.
She said there are plenty of talented players coming up, but Laingsburg has experienced a few growing pains while starting out the season 2-7-5.
“We have a lot of work to do to be where we want to be,” Emmer said. “This is my 19th year here, so I know the girls and they know me. They know what I expect. We have a solid team. We just have to work on working together as a team.”
Emmer said it’s important to understand this year’s Laingsburg varsity team has its own identity, which it is still trying to find.
Five players from the state finals team —seniors Portia Maudlin-Hanson, Tanner Butler, Andrea Mahoney, Kassie Koenig and Kaitlyn Koerner — do return. Maudlin is playing libero, while Koerner is the outside hitter. Butler is a middle hitter.
“We have some excellent players coming back — Tanner and Kaitlyn,” Emmer said. “Kaitlyn worked really hard in the offseason playing club ball and she’s ready to take a big role.”
The team also features middle hitters up from the junior varsity in Kayla Koenig (middle hitter) and Victoria Dedic. Maudlin-Hanson had 10 digs in last year’s state title match.
“We have a lot of potential this year,” Maudlin-Hanson said. “But we need a lot of work in team bonding and becoming closer as a team.”
Koerner said adjusting to a new coach and a new coaching style makes the transition to a new season tougher as well.
“Losing our coach was the biggest loss,” Koerner said. “I was going to be with Tennille Whitmore for my third year. It’s the biggest adjustment. They have different coaching styles.”
Butler, who had eight digs and four kills in the state title match, said this year’s Laingsburg team is much shorter.
“We lost a lot of height this year — Mya and Alex were big trees.”
Koerner is still optimistic.
“It’s a whole new team, whole new coach and a whole new season,” Koerner said. “We still are hoping we can make something happen.”