ELSIE — Kalista Bancroft had a killer instinct for the Ovid-Elsie volleyball team.
The 5-foot-11 senior outside hitter — this week’s Argus-Press/Memorial Healthcare Athlete of the Week — recorded team-highs of 220 kills and 45 blocks this season while leading the Marauders to a runner-up finish in the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference.
Ovid-Elsie head coach Kortney Miller said Bancroft was a true leader, but also a coachable player, which is hard to find these days.
“She was a huge asset to our team,” Miller said. “She is a leader on and off the court. She takes pride in playing her hardest all of the time. I can be hard on her and she takes it with such positivity and does everything and anything I ask of her.”
Bancroft is an all-around athlete, Miller said.
“She is our top hitter, blocker, and one of the top passers and servers,” she said. “She can play anywhere you put her and succeed.”
Bancroft, who has verbally committed to play volleyball at Alma College, said her progression as an attacker and defender came from experience through competition.
“I really learned how other teams play better and how other teams hit and reading the ball better,” Bancroft said.
She said her hitting was a point of focus and it continually improved. She credited her team’s setters — Braylon Byrnes and Evalyn Cole.
“We definitely worked on that (hitting) a lot in practice and I definitely got better at it this year,” Bancroft said.
One of seven seniors on the Marauder roster, Ovid-Elsie was a veteran team that seemed to gel well together, Bancroft said. The team brought in a 6-0 league mark when it faced Mt. Morris with a chance at its first league volleyball championship since 1984. However, the Panthers defeated the Marauders, 25-6, 25-11, 25-18 to take the title. Shehad a team-high six kills.
“It was an off night for us and I don’t think it was as good of a match as it could have been,” Bancroft said. “I wish it would have been a different outcome — that we would have been first, but we all worked really hard to finish second.”
Bancroft said a sweep over Durand was the high point of the season, in her view.
“It kind of set the tone for the rest of the season,” Bancroft said. “We all got really excited about that one. Going into it, we didn’t really know their skill level. And that was kind of the (turning) point of the season.”
The triumph lifted Ovid-Elsie to 5-0 in conference play at the time, as Bancroft recorded a team-best 13 kills with 11 digs and three blocks.
Late in the season, the team was slowed by COVID-19 as practice was halted for more than a week when the team was trying to prepare for a district clash against Owosso at Corunna High School. Ovid-Elsie High School was closed and students went to online learning.
The team only was able to squeeze in one practice before districts. The Trojans swept the Marauders, 25-20, 25-22, 25-11.
“That was definitely a tough one for us,” Bancroft said. “It lasted about a week and a half and some of our other players were out for a little longer, quarantining (with) COVID.”
Still, it was a year of transformation for the Marauders. O-E had won just four matches all last year before going 27-26 this fall.
“We worked well together and had that family aspect, on and off the court and we were really close,” Bancroft said. “It helped us work better together … It was a really good season. By far, the best one of my high school career.”
“She was an absolute joy to coach and a coach’s dream athlete,” Miller said. “We have been successful this season and it has a lot to do with Kalista.”
Bancroft has played two other varsity sports at Ovid-Elsie — girls soccer and girls basketball.
She has played three years of varsity soccer and played one year of varsity basketball. She helped the Marauders win a league title last spring while playing wing on the soccer squad.
The senior plans to major in finance at Alma College.
“I’m really excited about it — I haven’t signed my letter yet but I’m going to soon,” Bancroft said. “Just to play at the next level and have another team to get close with and have that family aspect with.”