Former coach returns to rebuild Warrior volleyball program

Nine seniors and letter-winners from last year?s Marion High School volleyball team return to the court for the Warriors this fall. Pictured are: back row (from left) Kimber Hardey, Lana Carroll, Julia Zeiner, Kristen Waner, Kaylee Heerey; front row Austin Percell, Kalaya Jackson, Lindsey Hett, Lauren Helmer. Andrew Ottoson / Free Press. Click image to enlarge

After five years in retirement, Marion High volleyball coach Jim Versch returns to the hardwood for his 14th season this fall.

?I have seen our program go downhill for the last five years, with three different coaches and I felt it was time to try to turn the program around,? Versch said of his decision to return to coaching

?There is a lot of talent on this squad,? he added. ?Finding the right combination of players, plus utilizing everyone?s strengths, this squad could be very strong,

?And I really missed being in the coaching realm. There is a certain sense of enjoyment to being called ?coach.??

Versch takes charge of a team that went 1-27 last year, finished last in the Mid-Central Activities Association and graduated three starters.

But with Julia Zeiner (5 feet 9 inches), Kayley Heerey (5-9) and Lindsay Hett (5-7) returning as sophomores with a season of starting experience as freshmen, height is one quality the Warriors will not be lacking in 2007.

?They can all jump, too,? Versch said.

?Zeiner is our strongest outside hitter and a good all-around athlete,? he said. Last spring, Zeiner qualified in four track-and-field events.

?Heerey is our strongest middle hitter and blocker,? Versch said. ?She has a good nose for the ball, plus she is great in the back row.?

?Hett is our second setter,? he said. ?She is a strong athlete, who can stay in the front row as a hitter and blocker.?

Austin Percell (5-9) and Lauren Helmer, the team?s top seniors, bring more than experience to the right side.

?The seniors will be a major part of the team,? Versch said.

?Percell is our primary setter, and she provides great team leadership,? he added. ?She is very coachable.?

He noted that Helmer (5-6) brings an element of versatility: ?She is a great utility player who can step in at any position.?

Freshman outside hitter Chassidy Carlson (5-6) will be a significant addition to the team?s core.

?As a freshman, Chassidy brings a level of maturity that is rare at that age,? Versch said. ?She is a good leaper and strong hitter, and she continues to help in our back row play.?

Kristen Waner (5-8) and Kristen Steinborn (5-7) will be two others who will make major contributions to the team.

?Kristen Waner is a senior, a strong player, very coachable, and a smart athlete who can fill any spot comfortably,? Versch said.

Versch will be looking for Steinborn, a sophomore, to play a bigger role as an outside hitter.

?She is all-around, a great athlete that gives us more depth,? Versch said.

Marion played its first matches of the season Saturday at the MCAA tournament in Ellin?wood. See Page 16B for results.

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