AUSTIN EDITION Rookie coach has high hopes for Packers
By Guy N. Limbeck
First-year Austin volleyball coach Lisa Grunewald is optimistic heading into her rookie season.
Grunewald, a 1997 Austin High grad who played for the Packers, looks at the young players on her team, but doesn't see inexperience. She doesn't have anyone taller than 5-foot-9, but she doesn't see a lack of height.
"I don't think (height) will be a problem," Grunewald said. "They can jump and get up and block. They've been dealing with it for a while now."
Senior Theresa Hirsch is in her third year as a starter. Despite being 5-7 she has led the Packers in kills and blocks the past two years and is closing in on school spiking marks. She was all-conference a year ago.
"She'll be a force," Grunewald said.
Senior Lauren Royce is the only other senior in the starting lineup. She saw a lot of action a year ago as an outside hitter. Aside from the two seniors, Grunewald is likely to start a junior and three sophomores in the opening match.
"Each of the sophomores is composed, and the seniors we have are good leaders," Grunewald said.
Junior Laura Geffert and sophomore Angie Rohne are the other letterwinners back. They are expected to start, as are sophomore twins Natalie and Nicole Miller. Natalie Miller will be the setter.
"I think a key to get our offense going will be our passing," Grunewald said, "because Natalie's a strong setter."
The coach says the Packers can have a successful season if they are successful at passing to Natalie Miller, who in turn gets the ball to Austin's top hitters. Rohne is expected to be the No. 2 option behind Hirsch at middle hitter.
"Angie Rohne's improved a lot since last year," Grunewald said. The coach expects Royce and Geffert to also be hitting threats at the net.
"Our strength will be hitting," Grunewald said. "And we have strong serving."
Outside hitter Allysa Lorenz and setter Katie Dunlop, both seniors, will also be in the rotation.
Nicole Miller is expected to be a key defensive player, but Grunewald said it will take a team effort if the Packers are going to be solid in passing.
"They're all going to be passing except Natalie, so they all have to take charge," Grunewald said. "We have a good mix of young players and veterans."
The coach hopes the Packers can duplicate or exceed last year's fourth-place finish in the Big Nine. The Packers also hope to advance a couple of rounds in section play.
Grunewald lists Owatonna and Mankato West as the teams to beat in the Big Nine Conference. Austin's first two games are against those teams. The Packers play host to Owatonna today at 7:30 p.m.
AUSTIN GIRLS VOLLEYBALL
Seniors -- Theresa Hirsch*# (middle hitter), Lauren Royce* (outside hitter), Allysa Lorenz (outside hitter), Megan Anderson (back row), Allie Tolbert (outside hitter), Bethany Pulchinski (middle hitter). Juniors -- Laura Geffert* (outside hitter), Brittney Erichson (outside hitter), Katie Seeck (back row). Sophomore -- Natalie Miller (setter), Nicole Miller (outside hitter), Angie Rohne* (middle hitter).
* -- Returning letterwinners, # -- Captains.
Aug. 27 -- Owatonna, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 29 -- at Mankato West, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 31 -- at Century Invitational, 9 a.m.
Sept. 5 -- Faribault, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 9 -- United South Central, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 12 -- Rochester Mayo, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 16 -- at Hayfield, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 17 -- Farmington, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 19 -- at Mankato East, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 21 -- Austin Invitational, 9 a.m.
Sept. 24 -- Northfield, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 26 -- at Waseca, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 1 -- Winona, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 3 -- at Rochester Century, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 6 -- at Blue Earth Invitational, 9 a.m.
Oct. 8 -- Albert Lea, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 15 -- Rochester John Marshall, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 23, 25 -- Section 1AAA tournament at high seed, 7 p.m.
Oct. 31 -- Section 1AAA semifinals at Rochester, 7 p.m.
Nov. 2 -- Section 1AAA finals at Rochester, 5 p.m.
Nov. 7-9 -- Class AAA state tournament finals, TBA.