“Walking into the gym in August to see real faces to coach and no masks to impede smiles and communication was a fantastic way to start the year,” said OFA Women’s Volleyball Coach Sue McLean. .
The Devils opened play with a NAC West home game against Clifton-Fine on Wednesday.
“There’s been a whole different vibe and feel to this year’s team.”
OFA will again play in the West Division with Canton, Gouverneur, Madrid-Waddington, Potsdam and Clifton-Fine
The eastern division is Brushton-Moira, Chateaugay, Malone, Massena, Salmon River, Tupper Lake
OFA and Malone will face off again in Class B in the Section 10 tournament while Massena is the only Class A team, Gouverneur, Canton, Potsdam and Salmon River make up the Class C field and Class D ranks include Brushton-Moira, Chateaugay, Madrid-Waddington, Tupper Lake and Clifton-Fine.
This year’s Devils feature five returning players as well as nine new to the college level. Of those five returns, three were part of last year’s starting lineup and saw considerable playing time.
The returns include three seniors and two juniors.
Senior captain Abby Raven has played varsity volleyball since she was a freshman and was in the starting lineup as a midfielder for nearly all of those four years. She received All-NAC West first-team honors last year. In the first week, Coach McLean feels she is hitting and serving harder than ever.
“I’m always impressed with Abby’s skills, but this year she’s stepped back into her leadership role. She’s constantly trying to make sure that revenants and recruits mix. Her skills, communication and leadership will definitely be an asset as young players definitely look to her for guidance,” Coach McLean said.
Senior captain Kenzie Bucher will also play center hitter with a definite presence.
“Kenzie is a joy to have around. She brings the fun to the gym and always has a smile on her face. She really is a great captain who sets the tone in the gym.
Rounding out the seniors, Quinn Crosson who will be relied on to help hit from the right side and has been working hard in training to help set up the tasks.
“Quinn’s greatest asset is his powerful serve and we will definitely be looking to use that this year,” coach McLean said.
Julia Kelso and Tava Colburn, two juniors in last year’s starting lineup, both play away and saw considerable playing time last year and played at the club off-season to continue their growth in the game.
“Tava’s speed in defense helps us tremendously and Julia can hit hard from the outside,” coach McLean said.
Making the transition from JV to Varsity are six juniors and three sophomores.
“Juniors Cadey and Clara Cole will be our main setters and those two have been working on the setting I think since they could walk. They both have a fantastic upbeat attitude and their restlessness and determination combined with a great frame are a coach’s dream duo. They can also hit well and are great team players,” says Coach McLean.
Junior Darien Sellers will play in midfield and has a great work ethic and coach McLean is delighted to see his progress already this year.
According to their coach, Junior Kaydence Thorton serves and hits well early in the season and will help hit outside and classmates Carlie Belile and Caitlin Beyette are also capable of playing on the right side and outside.
Three sophomores are making the transition to college and are already going straight into college game speed, Coach McLean says.
“Zoee Williams has stepped in at center hitter and has great skill in all aspects of the game. Brooke Barr has fantastic serve as well as great success and should be spending time as an outside hitter. Rounding out the sophomore line, Abby Williams was quick to help us in practice with right side striking and setting duties,” Coach McLean said.
Coach McLean sees a lot of potential in his latest Blue Devil edition.
“This team has enormous potential. We have a lot of youngsters this year and teams can fire a team that only has three seniors. Before the season, I see us mixing well. Everyone knows where he stands and what his job is. Our philosophy this year is to control what you can control,” she says.
“Behind this philosophy are 4 simple goals that we need to remember every time we step onto the pitch: 1. Move our feet 2. Communicate 3. Play with heart and 4. Play smart. If we do these four things and keep working hard throughout the year through the ups and downs of our growing pains, we are sure to reach our peak at the right time. I’m still proud to say I coach the Devils. The OFA blue-collar hard work and commitment mentality is alive and well on the volleyball court. This team gives 100% effort 100% of the time working together all the time. It is truly a joy to train them and great fun to spend time with them,” said Coach McLean.