By Chris Parker
Marshfield volleyball was one of the area’s top teams in head coach Jarod Olson’s first season last year. The Lady Bluejays finished as the Class 3 District 11 runner-up to eventual state champion Rogersville. The set Marshfield took off Rogersville was one of just two sets the Lady Wildcats lost all postseason.
The Lady Bluejays graduated four players and three starters with another starter not returning from that 26-win squad.
The cupboard is far from bare for Olson.
Emily Aldridge and Addison Crider return for their senior seasons after earning all-conference honors last year.
Aldridge was a first-team all-conference selection as a setter after she led Marshfield with 411 assists and 39 aces last year.
Crider returns as the team’s top hitter after putting down 197 kills last season on her way to second-team all-conference honors.
“Addison this year is going to be a six-rotation player,” Olson said. “She is going to be a senior leader for us. We definitely expect her to continue to be a high-volume attacker for us. She is just going to bring more offense to us on the back row as well.”
Brooklyn Crawford is another returning starter for Marshfield. She had 107 kills last year and will see an even bigger role this season as a junior.
“She (Crawford) was under the radar last year. I am afraid she will not be under the radar this year. She is going to be an important player this year in the middle,” Olson said.
Fellow junior Brianna Utecht will move from the right side to the middle this year.
Alliyah Joiner will be another impactful player after leading the Lady Bluejays in digs last year with 234.
“Alliyah Joiner is an outstanding athlete. She gets to everything. She is just one of those kids that is just a ball of fast-twitch fibers,” Olson said. “Last year for chemistry reasons she did not have the libero jersey, but she will have the libero jersey this year.”
Annie Gray, Sydney Cox and Blayke Taylor are three seniors that will provide solid defense and versatility.
The junior trio of Baylee Hayes, Ashlyn Grier and Maile Peck will be factors on the right side hitting.
Marshfield has a lot of players seeing expanded roles this year, but on the same hand it is an experienced group. Getting this year’s version of players working together will be key to success.
“Chemistry is so huge. Last year’s seniors were so good with developing our chemistry,” Olson said. “When you have chemistry you can have a faster offense and your defense is in sync.”
Marshfield will again share a conference and likely a district with defending Class 3 State Champion Rogersville. Olson has upped the difficulty of his team’s schedule once again with the goal of competing with Rogersville and other top teams in Class 3.
“We made our schedule even tougher this year,” Olson said. “We have to play at that high level. We are just trying to chase competition that is consistently at that level that we are going to face (in the postseason).”
As Marshfield works for big goals, Olson has the benefit of a strong coaching staff that includes former Marshfield head coach Lisa Messick and Sara Bull to help make those goals reality.
“Any one of us could be the head coach of this team. It is nice having a staff that you can lean on. I can look to them for answers. If there is something I am not seeing that they are seeing they can give me their opinions,” Olson said.
Olson hopes the tough schedule will have his team ready to peak at the right time in postseason play.
“I think success is our kids meeting their potential and peaking at the right time just like we did last year,” Olson said. “I thought last year was a successful season. If we are peaking at the end of the season like we were last year, then I think it will be a successful season.”
Marshfield opens the season on Sept. 5 at Waynesville. The Lady Bluejays will follow that game with their home opener against 2018 Class 4 Final Four participant Willard.