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September 4, 2013

Macomb Community College volleyball has postseason ambitions

By Mark Vest
C & G Sports Writer

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Pictured, from left, are Macomb Community College volleyball sophomores Tara McFarland, Nora Fa’atiga, Liz McKee, Abbey Murawski and Amanda McAfee. Coach Holly Ritchie said she has been pleased with the leadership she has received from the sophomores.

After making it as far as the National Junior College Athletic Association regionals last season, the women’s volleyball team from Macomb Community College has their sights set even higher for the 2013 campaign.

MCC, which competes in the Michigan Community College Athletic Association Eastern Conference, is aiming to win a league championship and earn another berth to regionals. If the Monarchs are able to advance past regionals, they will earn a place at nationals.

That is where MCC wants to be, and coach Holly Ritchie has given some thought as to what it might take to get there.

“I think we need to work on our team chemistry, have good communication as a team, stay positive (and) work hard throughout the season,” she said. “If our sophomores stay consistent and our freshmen get better, then we’ll be fine.”

MCC has received a big boost in its attempt to take aim at those goals with the return of Nora Fa’atiga, who missed all of last season due to an injury sustained in a preseason practice.

As a freshman, Fa’atiga, according to her coach, was named to the All-Region, All-Freshmen and All-Regional tournament team. Aside from those accolades, she was also named first teams All-League and first team All-Conference, along with being selected as team MVP.

After some tough moments of sitting on the sidelines while her teammates competed last season, Fa’atiga is pleased to be back in the mix to try to help make this season successful for the Monarchs.

“I’m really happy,” she said. “Last year, I was really sad, just the fact I couldn’t play. Since I was 10, when I started playing, I would play all year long. But last year gave me time to adjust well to getting good grades. Coming back this year’s really fun. I’m excited for the season. We have a great team this year; lot of great athletes and good teammates.”

Ritchie said she was worried Fa’atiga might not return to the team after sustaining her injury. Instead, what she got was somebody who, aside from merely staying with the team, opted to offer encouragement and support for her teammates despite the disappointment she was going through as a result of not being able to play.

“She would stand on the sidelines and cheer her heart out,” Ritchie said. “She would encourage people. She does a great job coaching the younger kids — she’s extremely positive and cheers (them) on. It was nice. She got to coach a little bit standing on the sidelines, and teach things a little more. It was nice for her to sit on the sidelines and understand the game a little better, from a different perspective. I think that’s made her a better player this year.”

With the kind of success she has enjoyed as a community college player, other options may be open to Fa’atiga when her playing days are over at MCC after the season. She is hoping to have the opportunity to be part of a four-year university that has a good physical therapy and kinesiology program, as well as a solid volleyball program.

Fa’atiga, who is from American Samoa, has also given some thought as to what she might like to do after graduating.

“I’m planning on going home and help more athletes out — get the experience I got,” she said. “It’s a really small island. Lot of kids have the talent, but they don’t really go further than home. No one knows where American Samoa is, so you have to beat your way out of there. Not that it’s a bad place to live, it’s just small — not a lot of opportunities collegewise.”

Fa’atiga is one of five sophomores on the Monarchs’ squad, and given that MCC is a two-year school, it is the second-year players who are considered the team veterans. Fa’atiga (Richmond High School), Tara McFarland (Gabriel Richard), Liz McKee (Leland Public), Abbey Murawski (Chippewa Valley) and Amanda McAfee (Chippewa Valley) represent the sophomores, and Ritchie is pleased with the leadership she has received from her cast of veterans.

“We tell them how important it is to be positive with the freshmen,” she said. “They do a great job mentoring them off and on the court (and) in the classroom. Anytime freshmen need advice, lot of times they go to the sophomores. They are a great instrument for our freshmen to utilize. I’m really proud of the sophomores — how they’re progressing. They’re not only being leaders on the floor, but they’re great kids off the court, too.”

The Monarchs’ freshmen are Samantha Borowiak (Warren Woods Tower), Josie DeGregorio (Wyandotte Roosevelt), Erica Wilson (Warren Woods Tower), Sara Ormsby (Madison Heights Lamphere), Stephanie Lee (Wyandotte Roosevelt), Ashley Klavitter (Linden), Amy Coffin (Sterling Heights Stevenson) and Leah Hofmann (Macomb Dakota).

At press time, MCC was off to a 2-0 start in the Eastern Conference.

The Monarchs are next scheduled to be in action at 7 p.m. Sept. 12 in a road game against Mott CC.

MCC’s next scheduled home match at the Sports & Expo Center located on the Warren campus is set for 7 p.m. Sept. 17 against Oakland Community College.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mark Vest at mvest@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1112. Twitter Follow Mark on Twitter.