Veteran Woodridge volleyball squad setting goals high

Bulldogs looking to compete in the new Metro Athletic Conference

ROGER GORDON
Correspondent

The Woodridge volleyball program has come a long way in a short time.

Two years ago, the Bulldogs finished 8-16. Last year, they improved to 10-12 and third place in the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division, and took division rival Norton five sets before falling in a Division II first-round sectional match.

According to third-year head coach Katie Cicione, her team looks strong in the preseason and has much potential.

“This is really, truly the best that Woodridge volleyball has looked in a very long time,” she said. “I walked out of the last day of tryouts pretty confident in this upcoming season in the leadership and abilities that we have, especially within our senior class.”

It will be a sophomore right-side hitter/defensive specialist Anna Laczo who will lead the way this season for Woodridge.

“Anna started last year as a freshman,” Cicione said. “She’s very dynamic. She’s a threat to our opponents offensively and has a tremendous volleyball IQ, which has gotten her where she is now. Her work ethic this offseason was outstanding.”

Seniors Mya Lathem, an outside hitter/defensive specialist, and Audrey Donnelly, a middle hitter/right-side hitter, will bring much to the table. Donnelly has committed to play for Grove City College in Pennsylvania next year

“Mya has been first team since she was a freshman,” Cicione said. “She’s very talented at both positions. Her volleyball IQ and her experience are where she’ll help us this year.

“Audrey is a transfer from Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary. That will really help us. She’s a huge part of what we’ll do this year. She’s a very dynamic player. Her volleyball IQ is tremendous. She’s a great leader and has kind of taken our program by storm this year. She’ll be somebody definitely to watch in the Metro.”

Three other seniors who will be key cogs to the Bulldogs’ fortunes this season are setter Alyssa Speakman, defensive specialist Sarah Abood and outside hitter/defensive specialist Bella McBride.

“Alyssa has been on the varsity team since her sophomore year,” the coach said. “She’s the person running our offense. Her leadership and her voice are so important to what we’ll do this season. She runs absolutely everything we do. She’s a great decision-maker.

“Sarah’s work ethic is outstanding. Her speed is what makes her so good. Her volleyball IQ and ability to adapt to any situation will help our defense tremendously. Bella is another outstanding, competitive athlete who we have in Woodridge athletics. She’ll help us this year. She’ll be key on what we do this season.”

Other team members are senior defensive specialists Jordan Ritterbeck and Morgan LaMancusa, junior outside hitter Emily Dennison and freshman middle hitter Hope Donnelly, Audrey’s sister.

Cicione’s assistant coach is Sara Van Deusen.

“We accomplished a lot last year,” Cicione said. “Our team goal is just to continue what we did last season. Another goal is to beat the third-place finish we got last year in the division and get first or second.

“And with the talent and volleyball IQ we have this year … to be looking this good this early on is a good thing. We need to continue to work on our offense, and I’d say our defense is pretty set. We just have to keep being competitive, keep working hard, and having the mindset and leadership that we already have.”

Like all Woodridge squads, the Bulldogs are members of a new conference this year, as the former members of the Portage Trail Conference Metro Conference have formed the Metro Athletic Conference this season. Woodridge will still compete with Coventry, Cloverleaf, Field, Norton, Ravenna, Streetsboro, and Akron Springfield in league play.

Woodridge is scheduled to open the season at home against Revere Aug. 22 at 11:30 a.m.