Even with roster turnover, moving up a class, Wes-Del volleyball's confident in 2022

·4 min read

GASTON, Ind. — Sure, there was the immediate disappointment Wes-Del volleyball felt after losing in the sectional semifinal last year.

The five-set loss, just the Warriors' second loss to a Class A team of the year, came against their rival Daleville, the same team they swept at the beginning of the 2021 season. A win would've almost guaranteed the Warriors their first sectional title since they last won state in 2014.

Alas, Wes-Del was sent home earlier while Daleville went on to win the sectional championship later that same evening. Looking back, head coach Biff Wilson said maybe they were too emotionally invested in the match, which prevented them from playing their best volleyball. But the disappointment, the sadness from the loss quickly turned into motivation.

"I feel like it obviously was kind of sore in the moment, like, first when we got back but we soon realized we can’t let that stay on our minds," senior setter Avery Townsend said. "We needed to move on and just work on us and fix the things we need to fix and just focus on ourselves."

Wes-Del's Avery Townsend sets against Daleville during their game at Daleville High School Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. Wes-Del defeated Daleville 3-0.
Wes-Del's Avery Townsend sets against Daleville during their game at Daleville High School Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. Wes-Del defeated Daleville 3-0.

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"It was a tough loss and it didn’t really put us at a negative mindset," senior middle hitter Rayven Luzadder said. "It put us at an ‘OK, these are the things that we need to change for next season so we’re going to work harder and we’re going to work to improve and move forward.'"

As Wes-Del began one of its last summer practices, days away from the season opener against Daleville, Wilson was smiling at the south end of the gym.

Of course, the match — outside of being a long-time rivalry — doesn't hold the same weight as previous years. Wes-Del was moved up to Class 2A this season and will be competing in a loaded sectional with Muncie Burris, Wapahani, Winchester and others, so the season opener won't be a sectional preview like it has been in previous years.

Daleville faces off against Wes-Del during their game at Daleville High School Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021.
Daleville faces off against Wes-Del during their game at Daleville High School Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021.

But Wilson is eager for the start of the season and the challenge this season will bring with the Warriors moving up a class. Instead of being afraid of playing in 2A, he said he's trying to get his team to embrace the new challenge.

Similarly to a handful of other schools, Wes-Del graduated several multi-year starters — and five players overall — last season. Saying goodbye to such vital pieces might worry most coaches entering a new year, but Wes-Del's confident in the veteran group of upperclassmen it returns this season.

The Warriors bring back five seniors and four juniors, including middle hitters Luzadder and Ella Mauck, outside hitters Olivia Embry and Olivia Delaney, setters Townsend and Jennah Love and more. While it graduated its top-three kills and digs leaders, several players who played out of position last year have been working throughout the offseason to fill those spots.

"I was curious to see who was going to step up and take their spots but we have such great players that did and have easily connected and gotten things going," Townsend said.

She added: “I’m pretty confident. Our connections are there, we’re starting to work as a team and get it going, so I’m really excited for this season.”

Wes-Del's Biff Wilson on the sideline during a match against Daleville at Daleville High School Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. Wes-Del won 3-0.
Wes-Del's Biff Wilson on the sideline during a match against Daleville at Daleville High School Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. Wes-Del won 3-0.

Wilson said he's been impressed with the seniors stepping up into leadership positions and the continual growth of a strong 2024 class. His goal remains the same as it's been in his 19 years of coaching high school volleyball: to have his team playing their best volleyball in October.

Last year, Wes-Del went 24-7 and 8-1 in an always talented Mid-Eastern Conference. All but four of the Warriors' wins came by way of sweep and just four of its losses came against teams in Class A or 2A. And although 2022 brings its own uncertainties and challenges, Wes-Del seems prepared to face them head on.

"It's the start of the season, let's do our best, let's see where it takes us in this first game and then we're going to work throughout the season and hopefully try and get into a running for a sectional championship, that's always been our goal," Luzadder said.

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Robby General covers Ball State and East Central Indiana high school sports for The Star Press. Contact him via email at rgeneral@gannett.com or on Twitter @rgeneraljr.

This article originally appeared on Muncie Star Press: IHSAA volleyball: Wes-Del confident despite moving up to 2A