Braves volleyball team opens season tonight

For the past 24 years, Brownstown Central coach Jennifer Shade has looked forward to the upcoming volleyball season, and this fall is no different.

“We’re excited,” she said. “Last year, we had a really young team, had a lot of freshmen that stepped up and we had a successful season, so we’re just building on that. We lost one senior. We’re just moving on from what we ended with last year. We’re excited that everyone is a year older and a little bit stronger.”

Leading the attacking and blocking at the net will be Sophie Wischmeier, Kinzee Dean and Kera Wischmeier in the middle. Shade said Sophie and Addie Darlage, Brailey Teipen and Haley Derringer will battle for playing time in the front row, which Shade says gives the team a lot of depth.

“It’s an unusual couple years here that we have because most of the time, we search for hitters or we may lack one or two positions and we just have role players at those positions, but we’ve been lucky enough these last few years to have an abundance of hitters, so it’s made a big front line,” she said.

Junior Jaydynn Yeadon has been the Braves’ libero since her freshman year and will fill that spot again.

“She’s picking up a lot of balls,” Shade said. “She’s really matured, and it’s always nice to have someone that started here their freshman year and helped lead that back court.”

Finley Wheeler and Kaitlyn Williams shared the setting duties last year and will do the same this season.

Sophie Wischmeier will play all-around, and Shade said the remainder of the varsity roster, senior Kera Wischmeier, juniors Paisleigh Peters and Noelani McPherson, sophomores Olivia Fritz and Genna Preston and freshman Alex Davidson, “are people we can use all year in the back court.

“We feel really confident about our defense. We’re scrappy, and we’re actually passing a whole lot better than we did last year. They keep the ball off the floor, for sure. If we can get our blocking going as well as our defense, we’re going to be really good defenders.”

Shade doesn’t have any doubts about the Braves’ ability to score.

“When you have a strong front line, we should be dominant in our offense,” she said. “We have a couple of players that if we get the ball to them, they’re probably going to get a kill, and with our defense being so strong, it makes it so much easier to run the offense.”

She said with those strengths, plus veteran setters Wheeler and Williams, they should be good.

“Winning the first set is huge. We always say if you can get that first one under your belt, that’s nice, but I’ve said that for years, and then we went to the state finals (in 2019 against Bellmont), we didn’t win the first one, but we still won the championship,” she said. “It may not be as important as I’ve always thought, but it feels better as coaches to win that first one. You can relax a little bit.”

The Braves dropped down from Class 3A to Class 2A last year and won a sectional before falling to Linton-Stockton in the regional.

“Being in Class 2A, I think we really have a shot, and when you convince the girls in August that anything less than that is not good enough, it gets their mindset thinking about it. Some years, you see kids buying into that, and this year, we really see kids buying into that,” she said. “I really think there are girls on this team that believe that if we aren’t in the state finals, it would be a big disappointment.”

The Braves will host Eastern for their season and Mid-Southern Conference opener tonight with the junior varsity match set to start at 6:30 p.m.