The Lennox High School volleyball program is gearing up for an exciting new season under the guidance of new head coach, Vanessa Gabel. With a wealth of coaching experience and a roster filled with both returning talent and promising newcomers, the team is setting its sights on a successful season ahead.
Gabel brings a storied history of volleyball coaching to Lennox High School. Her journey began in 1989, while she was still a college volleyball player in Alaska. Throughout her career, she has coached at various levels, including high school and club volleyball. She also boasts four years of coaching NAIA college volleyball at College of the Ozarks. Last season Gabel assisted the varsity and was JV coach. This year that position will be filled by her husband, Mel Gabel.
“He has assisted me with multiple teams, including being the setters’ coach for the college team,” said Gabel. Also assisting the varsity and serving as the C-team coach will be Mallory Bohr who is new to coaching this year.
The team’s performance last season showed promise, finishing with a record of 12-16. As they enter the new season, Gabel and her coaching squad are excited to work with a roster that combines experienced players with emerging talent.
“With a lot of returning talent, both from varsity and JV, our offensive attacking should be strong,” said Gabel. “Three strong hitters out of Dani [Highum], Carli [Kuyper] and Ella [Grengs]…lots of back row defensive speed out of our defensive specialist group including [Ashlee] Sweeter, [Kate] Jackson, [Mia] Hanisch, and [Andie] Peters.”
Among the key players who have moved on from graduation is setter Kyah Jackson, leaving a gap in the team’s lineup. However, the upcoming talent on the roster is poised to step up and fill those roles.
Two of the team’s seniors, Highum and Kuyper, have already made their mark. Highum, an all-conference outside hitter, and Kuyper, a second team all-conference middle hitter, provide a strong foundation for the team’s offense. Senior Ashlee Sweeter is expected to take on the role of libero, adding a layer of defensive prowess to the squad.
Junior Ella Grengs returns as a setter, while Lilly Meyer, who excelled as last year’s libero, is transitioning to a setter role. Junior Ryan Hansen is set to make an impact as an opposite, and sophomore Addison Martz returns as a middle blocker. The team also welcomes eighth grader Libby Kranz as an upcoming outside hitter.
Gabel is optimistic about the team’s prospects this season, highlighting the depth of talent however, the coaching shuffle introduces an element of uncertainty. Gabel’s move from JV to varsity, along with the new JV and C-team coaches, could have posed challenges. But, the summer preparation has played a pivotal role in easing the transition and fostering cohesion.
“We got to work with the girls during the summer so a lot of the ‘new-ness’ got worked through already,” said Gabel.
As the season unfolds, the team’s sights are set on conquering a tough conference.
“I’m expecting a strong performance from this squad this fall. They have put in a lot of off-season and summer work and came into season ready to go. We’ve got a really tough conference so we will have our work cut out for us but I’m confident the ladies will come out on top more often than not,” said Gabel. “Our senior leadership from captains, Highum and Sweeter, is a positive and supportive environment for the players that are new to the squad and will help them to make an immediate impact on the team.”
Complete roster for the Orioles this season include: Seniors: Dani Highum, Carli Kuyper, Ashlee Sweeter, Kate Jackson, Ashley Bondesen; Juniors: Ella Grengs, Lilly Meyer, Ryan Hansen; Sophomores: Addison Martz, Mia Hanisch, Hannah Adney, Andie Peters; and Eighth grader: Libby Kranz.
The LHS volleyball team will begin their season this Saturday, Aug. 26 with the Canton Invite, beginning at 9 a.m. The team’s first home match-up will be Tuesday, Aug. 29 when they take on Vermillion. The team also hosts Tri-Valley on Aug. 31 and Tea Area on Sept. 5. The team will host Madison on Sept. 7 before heading on the road on Sept. 12 to face off against Elk Point Jefferson. They team is on the road again on Sept. 19 when they travel to Mount Vernon before facing West Central at home on Sept. 21. Two road games then follow, one at Beresford on Sept. 26 and one at Dell Rapids on Sept. 28 before a home match-up against Parker on Oct. 3.
Five road games in a row finish out the team’s regular season: Garrison on Oct. 9, Dakota Valley on Oct. 10, Tri-Valley on Oct. 16, McCook Central/Montrose on Oct. 17 and Canton on Oct. 24.