By Nelson Coffin
There’s little doubt that Mount de Sales freshmen Mary Grace Goyena, Chidinma Onukwugha and Kelsey Miller have been key factors for the Sailors in A Conference volleyball action this season.
The outside hitter, middle blocker and setter, respectively, have made opponents take notice of the youth movement in coach Tuan Nguyen’s second year at the helm,
Yet without the leadership provided by senior captains Camille Kresisel, Monica Wallace and Hanna Katulski and the rest of the upperclassmen on the roster, things might not be running quite as smoothly for the rookies.
Their steady play complements what the newcomers are bringing to a team that went 9-9 last year, but is unbeaten (7-0) in league play so far this fall after sweeping McDonogh, 25-6, 25-19, 25-9, on Monday in Catonsville.
“I feel like our seniors and our upperclassmen are really supportive,” Miller said. “They weren’t ever mean to us or anything. They were always like, ‘welcome.’”
Two of the captains boasted stellar stats in the win over McDonogh in the Dig Pink Match, from which all admission proceeds and money raised from raffle tickets for a pink-themed raffle basket went to support the St. Agnes Breast Center.
Kreisel went 15-for-15 serving with three aces. She also had 20 assists.
Wallace was 7-for-7 from the service line to go wth a dozen assists.
Other notable numbers include Goyena’s game-high 14 kills, junior outside hitter Abby Kuhn’s six kills and 10-for-10 serving and junior libero
Malina Beideman’s 15-for-15 serving and eight digs.
The captains said that bringing in the freshman was a fairly easy transition for both the rookies and veterans.
“We recognized very quickly the talent that they brought to the team,” Katulski said. “They were already on our level, so it wasn’t like we had to introduce them to our game. They were familiar already with what we were doing.”
Setting up Goyena for one of her authoritative kills is part of a recipe for success.
“We’re trying to do that to the best of our ability,” Kreisel said. “She’s amazing. so it’s about that. But it’s also about trying to be unpredictable, but going back to her when we get in a tight spot.”
There are other ways to score, Katulski noted.
“We also have some other good outlets,” she said. “Like if I’m opposite Mary Grace and Mary Grace isn’t doing well, I’ll try to step in. Or we try to get a good pass to one of our middles, because that’s one of the quickest ways to intimidate another team.”
However they do it, the Sailors are hoping to stay on the winning course through the last Saturday in October when the championship match will be held at Roland Park Country School.
Still, Nguyen does not want his team to get ahead of itself, considering it has another key conference match against St. Paul’s School for Girls on Thursday and a big non-league battle against Severna Park the next day.
“I tell the girls all the time that you can’t take any team for granted,” he said, knowing that the Eagles took a 14-13 lead in the second set on Monday. "I tell them that they have to play our game and to never let up.”