Craig volleyball built for success
As the dean of Big Eight girls volleyball coaches, Blake Budrow learned long ago not to look too far ahead.
Budrow, now in his 23rd season at Janesville Craig, is more concerned with how his team looks to start the season. Craig opens the season today by hosting the 10th annual Cougar-Viking Classic.
But with four starters back from a team that tied a school record with 31 wins a year ago, Budrow knows the potential is there for the Cougars to be a force in the Big Eight.
“There might be some bumps early on as we get used to playing with a new setter, but I think we’ve got a chance to be pretty good again,” Budrow said. “It’s just going to take some time to get everybody on the same page as far as where they need to be on court.”
Craig finished 6-3 in the conference a year ago and advanced to a Division 1 regional final before losing to perennial powerhouse Westosha Central.
Ali Calkins leads the list of returnees for Craig. The senior middle hitter led the team in kills last year and was a force on the front row. Junior outside hitters Aly Raymond and McKenzie Bertagnoli will join Calkins up front.
“We’re very athletic as a team, and it starts with our hitters up front,” Budrow said. “Ali is a four-year varsity player, while Aly and McKenzie are both starting their third year on varsity.”
The team’s top server from a year ago, junior Gabby Loveland, is back and is expected to fill a bigger role this season.
Budrow expects five seniors besides Calkins to contribute significantly. Haley Updike is a solid outside or middle hitter, while Kortney Kell is also an outside hitter. Kayley Hackett takes over at setter, a position that Katie Villa held for three years before graduating last year.
“You obviously don’t replace someone like Katie, but I think Kayley is very capable of stepping in and getting the job done,” Budrow said. “I think her teammates have the confidence in her to get them the ball.”
Senior Haleigh Salemi is a defensive specialist and senior Amanda Trapp will play libero.
Junior Gabrielle Gellar will be used as a defensive specialist, while sophomores Melanie Tinker and Lauren Hoffarth will be used as a setter and defensive specialist, respectively.
Budrow is also high on the potential of freshman Jenna Brandt as rightside hitter.
August: 30—Cougar-Viking Classic, 9 a.m.; 31—Cougar-Viking Classic, 9 a.m.
September: 3—At Madison East, 6:30 p.m.; 7—At Elkhorn Invitational, 9 a.m.; 10—Madison West, 6:30 p.m.; 17—At Verona, 6:30 p.m.; 19—Sun Prairie, 6:30 p.m.; 21—At Edgerton Invitational, 8 a.m.; 24—Beloit Memorial, 6:30 p.m.; 26—At Madison La Follette, 6:30 p.m.
October: 1—Madison Memorial, 6:30 p.m.; 3—At Middleton, 6:30 p.m.; 5—Craig Invitational, 9 a.m.; 8—Janesville Parker, 6:30 p.m.; 14—Monroe, 6:30 p.m.; 19—At Big Eight Conference Meet (Beloit), 8 a.m.