PHILIPSBURG – As the 2019 season nears, the Granite Lady Prospectors boast a program with 24 on its roster.
By season’s end, it might be 26.
Head Coach Jennifer Graham enters the season with anticipation of a solid run toward the postseason. She has six seniors that boast a wealth of talent, despite the loss of Emma Grange, who’s family moved from the area this spring.
Thanks to three inter-county junior transfers last year, Graham had what was arguably the most talented junior varsity team in the state. This year those transfers – Audrey Radtke, Kayla Holland and Shelby Struna – are all seniors anxious to get their chance at winning for the maroon and gold.
“There was a lot of talent that got a lot of experience last year at that JV level,” said Graham. “Plus we had Haddie Tallon who was our setter last year and so we decided to go from a 5-1 to a 6-2 offense.”
The 6-2 offense means that two players will act as setters for the team, straddled in the lineup so that the one in the back row can set for the three up front. This will give Granite a consistent third option when hitting and a chance to throw the defense off its game.
Joining those four seniors are Alexis Phillips and Serenity O’Donnell.
“Some of these girls have been playing since they were eighth graders,” added Graham. “It’s been really cool to see them develop as volleyball players and young women. They’re all strong women and good leaders.”
O’Donnell returns to the team after having had brain surgery this past spring. Having suffered two concussions, on each in volleyball and basketball, doctors noticed something during treatment for her headaches that led to a diagnosis that she needed the surgery.
The Lady Prospectors finished third in the two District tournaments, both times coming in behind Ennis and Twin Bridges. But even with a strong senior contingent with experience, Graham kept her optimism somewhat reserved.
That’s the beauty of Class C,” added Graham. “You never really know. You never know who or what is there. People move in, people move out … Our opening tournament will give us a good look at Twin, Drummond, Victor … And after that you just ease into the season and you’re off.”
Another added challenge for the coaching staff, both Graham and her assistant Kaley Hansen are pregnant. Graham is due to be induced Oct. 20, just 11 days before the District Volleyball Tournament. Hansen is due four weeks later, just three days before the State Tournament begins.
But for Graham, this is not her first rodeo in this predicament. She was pregnant with her daughter Lacie four years ago in a similar circumstance and she and her then head coach were both expecting. “It got so bad they wouldn’t let us ride the bus because they didn’t want to deal with the possibility of one of us going into labor,” she laughed. “They made us take a school car.”
With the large numbers in the program this year, it is very likely that the Lady Prospectors will run a ‘C’ team in addition to its varsity and junior varsity squads.
“I’m just excited for the season. I’m excited for volleyball. I love it!” Graham said.
The Lady Prospectors open play Saturday at 8:30 a.m. against St. Regis in the Tip-Off Tournament being held at Granite High School.