Manistee Catholic Central volleyball boosts in 2022

MANISTEE – After two home games to start the 2022 season, Manistee Catholic Central volleyball faced a daunting task.

With their home gym under renovation, the Sabers have had to find success on the road. Practices were conducted at the Manistee Armory Youth Project. Taking the bus in the middle of the week has become a chore.

It was a season they spent on the road, away from the friendly confines of their home turf. There are no home match procedures. It was a reality that was a struggle for everyone involved, but no fingers were pointed.

“They really had to start a family,” said first-year coach Sascha Szymanski. “There was an occasional (disagreement), but there was minimal drama to deal with the girls’ sport. They were able to work through any little drama that they didn’t show me at all. Their growth and maturity really grew this year.”
When the Sabers went off into a four-game losing skid in September to start life on the road, Szymanksi and the team captains had to think outside the box to keep the season afloat. The task was simple but challenging at the same time.
For MCC, a school with fewer than 75 students, to meet the goals they set for 2022, they had to find unity and down-to-earth chemistry with the people they spend every day with. The solution List discovered was as simple as it was ridiculous.
Spend more time with each other.

Manistee Catholic Central seniors Abby Logan (right) and Kaylyn Johnson keep the underclassmen entertained before a game against Onekama on Nov. 2 at Bear Lake High School.
Manistee Catholic Central seniors Abby Logan (right) and Kaylyn Johnson keep the underclassmen entertained before a game against Onekama on Nov. 2 at Bear Lake High School.

Mitch Vosberg/Attorney News

Team bonding events occurred throughout the season. Evenings filled with movie sessions, team dinners, and even a day of pumpkin carving gave MCC the sense of unity and chemistry they needed.
“They needed that extra time together away from sports,” said Szymanski. “They needed the extracurricular things other than volleyball to spend time and get to know each other. To get together not only as a volleyball teammate, but also as a friend.”
Once the group bonding activities started, MCC found its footing. After a win over West Michigan D League opponent Mason County Eastern that saw the Sabers win the opening set 38-36, things clicked, losing just two games in the final month of the season while simultaneously spending afternoons and evenings away from home.
“To come back to play today, it will be very difficult,” said Szymanski. “I am very proud of how they were able to work through this as a whole team.”
While the season ended with a three-set loss to Onekama in the district semifinals, the Sabers laid the foundation for what Szymanski wanted to create. It also led to a pair of VIPs being recognized for their individual efforts in 2022. Kaylin Johnson earned First Team All-Conference honors. Leah Stickney has earned a spot on the honorable mention list.

Manistee Catholic Central sophomore Brenna Johnson (left) and freshman Rhianna Levers break free on Nov. 2 at Bear Lake High School.
Manistee Catholic Central sophomore Brenna Johnson (left) and freshman Rhianna Levers break free on Nov. 2 at Bear Lake High School.

Mitch Vosberg/Attorney News

While she’s grateful for what the team has accomplished with its back against the wall and for Armory Director Amy Wojciechowski’s efforts to give the team a place to practice, she’ll also be missing the five seniors on this year’s team “like crazy.”
“They made my first year as a college coach at MCC very memorable,” Szymanksi said of the senior class. “Their public attitudes and commitment to the sport of volleyball made them very close-knit. I hope they will remember the last year they played MCC varsity volleyball as a kind of triumph.”
Ultimately, Szymanksi is pleased that this team has found a way to embrace the challenge presented by the 2022 season.
“It was tough. The girls were struggling sometimes,” said Szymanski. “But I am incredibly proud of how well the girls have come together as a team and battled through those challenges of being on a bus all year, working out in a different gym. They showed great resilience.
“It’s extraordinary how much poise and battle they’ve been able to show through it all.”

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