Stefanie Marlin Gaubatz is in her 13th season coaching volleyball and ninth overall at Belleville East, including several years as a girls volleyball assistant coach.
However, this year will mark her first as girls varsity volleyball coach and the 31-year-old Gaubatz can’t wait to get going.
“We have so much depth in the program,” said Gaubatz, who replaced Stacey Posey after Posey’s 2014 squad finished 13-22 overall and 2-5 in the Southwestern Conference following three straight 20-win seasons. “I’ve never seen a team like this, we’ve got girls that can play several different positions and girls that are going to spend some time on the bench that could easily start other games.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a competition between the girls day-in and day out and hopefully that will carry over to the games.
Gaubatz remains the Belleville East boys volleyball coach and has coached that team for four years. She pointed out a few differences between the two genders on the court.
“There is a big difference,” Gaubatz said. “The boys game is a little bit faster, it’s more about the power, and the girls game is more technical as far as strategy. But they’re both really fun to coach.”
Four of eight returning seniors were starters last season for the Lancers, but Gaubatz is encouraging plenty of competition for playing time.
“I think our lineup will fluctuate a little bit until we find a mix where we can gell the best,” she said, adding that should be an advantage to both sides. “They know that they have to work hard and prove themselves every day to earn that spot. Nothing’s going to be handed to them.”
Lots of height and firepower
Senior outside hitter Shelby Ridgeway, a first-team all-conference selection last season,led the 2014 Lancers with a dominant 334 kills and 86 blocks along with 163 digs. Ridgeway could form a potential offensive wall with junior Aaliyah Gladney (177 kills, third-team all-SWC) and 5-10 junior outside hitter Holly Badgley (136 kills).
“I feel like we’re one of the tallest and most athletic teams we’ve had in the program since I’ve been around,” Gaubatz said. “They key is going to be putting it all together.”
The setters include senior assists leader Katey Sauerwein (6.49 per match), junior Janae Mosby and senior Kelly Hull. Sauerwein (49 kills) could also see time at right side hitter.
Other hitters and/or players in the middle are seniors Julia Moran (67 kills), Erin Pruett (42 kills) and Tamar Mosby and junior Claire Randle.
Libero and defensive specialist candidates include junior twins Brittany and Briana Pickens and senior Danielle Hawthorne, an Althoff transfer who did not play last season.
“With that big senior class hopefully we’re going to look to them for some leadership,” Gaubatz said. “We try to run a really intense-paced practice so when they get into the games it’s slower for them and we have that advantage against our opponents. The level of competition around here is really high.”