Junior spikers aiming to repeat

Some of their aces have been pulled from the deck, but Duane Roen isn’t about to fold with the hand he’s been dealt.
It’s an endless challenge that junior volleyball coaches like Roen must pull off in trying to field a winning team year after year while facing a constant turnover of players moving up to the senior ranks.
But as the guiding force behind the Muskie junior girls’ team, which enters play this year as the defending NorWOSSA champs, Roen sees only bright skies ahead.
“We might be a little shaky at the start, but the whole idea is to make this group into a team,” said Roen, who not only lost players with no junior eligibility left but also watched as three others decided to forego their final junior seasons to join the senior squad.
“Right now, I’m happy with what I’ve got,” he stressed. “The players really listen well, and are not afraid to try when I ask them to do new stuff.”
A total of 57 players tried out for the team—20 more than last year. The increased interest bodes well for the program down the road, but Roen is content to focus on the current task for the time being.
“Winning NorWOSSA is always the goal, and I think we’re capable of it,” he remarked. “We were a bit concerned at the start of last year, too, and it really rounded into shape at the end.”
A long attention span has served the junior program well given the team has won seven of the past eight NorWOSSA crowns. But the learning curve will have to be accelerated again as 10 out of 16 players on the team are first-time Muskies.
“We’ve got speed and some pretty good size,” said Roen, who has a new coaching partner this year in Paul Elliot after Struchan Gilson moved up as an assistant for the seniors.
“Our passing is pretty good,” he added. “We’ll see where we are when the big hitters on the other teams come at us.”
Veterans Michelle McFayden, Michelle Beck, Jenna Gogosha, Janelle Williamson, Natalie Desjardins, and Nina Stopa will be counted on for leadership. Of the newcomers, Roen likes what he’s seen so far from Shauna Jones.
“Shauna’s very comfortable with the technical part of the game, and I think she’ll be a real asset for us this season,” he said.
The Muskies kick off their season in Kenora against the Broncos Dec. 11.