By Kyle Daubs

There has been quite a bit of rollercoaster movement since the last time Mattoon volleyball took the court. 

After closing out a 14-16 season, former head coach Kayla Quick took the year off due to maternity leave, a pandemic hit, and the traditional fall season was moved to the spring. 

As the team has navigated through protocols from the summer to the fall and now to the opening week of the season, the team has had double the help as first-year coaches Hayley Kroening and Lori Morton will tag-team coaching duties for the 2021 season. 

“The girls have been amazing during the pandemic,” said Morton. “We had workouts during the summer, some open gyms in the fall, and several open gyms over the last couple of weeks. The biggest change we have experienced is obviously the change in the time of our season.  We also have to wear masks the whole time while practicing.  I haven’t heard one complaint. We are hoping for a season where we can all stay healthy and not have any COVID interruptions.”

Mattoon lost five seniors from last season, including All-Apollo Second-Team outside hitter Grace Earp, who is now playing at Vincennes University. Other holes include hitters Madi MacDonald and Kynley Scott, setter Anna Maleske, and libero Brya Black. 

Outside hitter Anna Morton, who has committed to Lake Land College, leads an experienced squad with seven seniors. Emilee Kuhn and Kendra Bialeschki should contribute as hitters, along with junior Averie Smith. 

Tinley Risinger is expected to be the team’s starting libero. Senior Xylia Greeson will step into a starting setting role, as well as junior Bella Smith. 

“I anticipate that hitting/blocking will be our strength, but our defense is quick,” said Morton. “It’s hard to say a weakness at this point. Xylia and Bella work well together and we have some powerful hitters with skilled setters.

Mattoon finished sixth in the conference last season with a 4-8 record well behind Apollo champion Mahomet-Seymour.

“I know in the past, Effingham, Charleston & Mt. Zion has been strong competitors, but a new year brings new athletes which can bring a whole new team,” said Morton. “At this point, I am confident that Mattoon will be at the top.”

Mattoon opens its season on Tuesday at Lincoln. 

“My goal is that at the end of every game, each player can say she gave her very best effort,” said Morton. “As a team, I want to see them gel and work together in a way where they can encourage each other out of the slumps & celebrate with each other in the victories.”

2021 Varsity Schedule

03/16 Tue @ Lincoln

03/18 Thu vs. Mt Zion

03/23 Tue @ Taylorville

03/25 Thu @ Teutopolis

03/27 Sat vs. Charleston

03/30 Tue @ Effingham

04/01 Thu @ Charleston

04/03 Sat @ Newton, 3 p.m.

04/06 Tue vs. Mahomet Seymour

04/08 Thu vs. Lincoln

04/10 Sat @ Mahomet Seymour, noon

04/13 Tue @ Mt Zion

04/15 Thu vs. Taylorville

04/20 Tue vs. Teutopolis

04/22 Thu vs. Effingham

Games start at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted