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September 11, 2013

Center Line volleyball team hopes to stay on upswing

By Jason Carmel Davis
C & G Sports Writer

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The Center Line High volleyball team is looking to build on last season’s second-place finish in the MAC Silver. Pictured is junior captain and middle hitter/middle blocker Jade Smith (11) during a matchup against Warren Mott at the 2013 Macomb County Kickoff Classic, which took place Aug. 23 at The Michigan Elite Volleyball Camp in Warren.

CENTER LINE — If the Center Line High volleyball team wants to improve on last season’s 13-7-1 mark, the Panthers must continue to work on their communication, coach Len Hernandez said Sept. 3.

Hernandez said talking on the court would cut down certain mistakes and help the team transition more smoothly from offense to defense, which would limit miscues and easy scores for opponents.

“When one person is out of position, that means they’re not talking to one another,” said Hernandez, in his sixth season as coach of the Center Line varsity team.

“If they know their responsibility, they can start talking even when the ball isn’t on our side of the court, making sure to cover spots, watch the ball and set up our defense.”

Senior defensive specialist Maela Jimenez, one of three captains, agreed that communication would play a major role in how Center Line fares this season.

“That’s the biggest thing we need to work on,” Jimenez said.

“A lot of times, the ball will drop in between two people for a point — little mistakes like that because no one called for the ball,” senior setter and captain Maya Abouya said.

“If we can fix that, we’ll be good. Coach makes us do drills in practice when we don’t communicate on a play, so we’re trying to fix that as soon as we can.”

The Panthers (0-1-1 at press time) have played in two tournaments early this season. The tourneys have given the squad the opportunity to work out some kinks, as far as communication goes. Center Line played in the 2013 Macomb County Kickoff Classic Aug. 23 at the Michigan Elite Volleyball Camp in Warren and in the Warren Woods Tower Invitational, played Aug. 30 at Tower. Although Center Line didn’t win either tournament, Hernandez said he’s pleased with his team’s efforts.

The Panthers, who went 8-2-1 to place second in the Macomb Area Conference Silver Division in 2012, have five returning players on a roster of 15.

“They started doing a good job of working together against Warren Woods Tower — a lot more communication and working together as a team,” Hernandez said. “To see that growth, it was really pleasing because it’s early in the season. If we can build on that, we’ll have a good year.”

Captains Jade Smith (junior middle hitter/middle blocker), Abouya and Jimenez have been charged with leading the team to that potentially good year. Each player said she relishes being put in a leadership role — being able to help teammates out and give advice.

“It’s fun to be able to be in this role and get everyone pumped up,” Smith said.

Hernandez said his three captains, and other players on the roster, make him optimistic about the season. Center Line had about 60 girls try out for freshman, JV and varsity teams, giving Hernandez a larger pool to pick from than in past years.

“We had to cut a lot of girls,” Hernandez said. “The girls on the team have shown a lot of potential, and just in the few weeks we’ve been practicing, there’s been a lot of growth.”

Center Line next hits the court for a matchup with MAC Silver foe St. Clair Shores South Lake, set for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 12 at South Lake.