By: Daniel Stickradt
GIRLS VOLLEYBALL: OAA Blue champion Rochester peaking at the right time
BY DAN STICKRADT
ROCHESTER HILLS — There’s no secret that a team hopes to peak in the final weeks of the season.
That’s the case for Rochester’s girls volleyball team in the during the final month of the 2016 campaign. The Falcons are living that success.
Rochester entered the postseason Nov. 1 on a hot streak, winning the OAA Blue Division championship and reaching the finals of the Northville Invitational, amongst other accomplishments.
Rochester also won the Port Huron Tournament this season and finished second at the recent Rochester City Cup.
“I can say that we are finally playing our best volleyball of the season,” said Lauren Duquette, a former standout at Oakland University who is in her sixth season as Rochester’s head coach. “We finally have our rotations and best lineup set and we are playing a lot better than we were at the beginning of the season. Which is always the goal for every team. I thought we could be better this season than last season, but we got off to a slower start.”
Rochester’s start was hurt by the season-ending knee injury to sophomore middle blocker Kaitlyn Kennedy. The Falcons also had a senior middle blocker leave the team in early September for personal reasons, leaving a void in the middle of the lineup.
Rochester moved some players around and have responded by posting a respectable 29-15-1 overall record this season.
“I think we’ve played a much tougher tournament schedule this season,” admitted Duquette. “I think that gave us confidence in our league and even more confidence in some of the tournaments we’ve played in. We were undefeated in our league. We didn’t lose a set. We just dominated teams.
“The confidence that we gained has definitely showed in our tournaments,” continued Duquette. “We played (Class A top-ranked) Novi in the finals at a recent tournament and scored the first three points on them. We didn’t win — Novi is so loaded (with talent). But we went out there with some confidence and that made a difference in the way we played. That wouldn’t have happened at the beginning of the season.”
Rochester, which boasts six seniors, four juniors, two sophomores and one freshman, have been led by versatile senior Madeline Halsey, who plays multiple positions on the court, and senior outside hitter Maya Gilgenbach.
Halsey, who is in her fourth varsity season, has committed to NCAA Division I Tennessee-Chattanooga. She plays setter for Rochester and also excels at outside hitter. Gilgenbach is a small-college recruit who is amongst the team leader in kills and attacking percentage.
Junior tower Sydney Jones (6-foot-1) has also emerged as a steady offensive force, while sophomore Ryan Allor is steady on the defensive end as a libero.
Halsey, Gilgenbach, Sophia Shafkalis and Julia Kowa serve as team captains.
“We’ve had some players step it up and lead us this season,” said Duquette. “Successful teams always need that from their seniors.”