Volleyball team is No. 4 state ranked
October 12, 2011 - By Joe St. Henry
Head Coach Bob Howey knew this year's Lake Orion girls varsity volleyball team was unique.
Over the summer, he told the squad loaded with seniors they had a great opportunity to leverage their talent and experience and make this a special season.
It appears the girls listened. With league play almost over and the state playoffs approaching, the volleyball team has proven to be one of the best in the state – and school history.
The lady Dragons defeated Farmington last Thursday, improving to 5-0 the OAA Red Division. Lake Orion sports a 34-8-2 record overall, with a No. 4 state ranking. This is the first time since the late 1980s that a Dragon team has been ranked.
"Everyone has really stepped up this season," Howey said. "The girls have bought into the team concept. In fact, I think this is the best chemistry we've ever had. We have a large roster (17 players) and everyone understands their role."
The head coach said the biggest challenge Lake Orion faces in league play is Clarkston, which also is currently undefeated and tied with the Dragons at the top of the standings. Lake Orion beat Clarkston twice in a recent tournament. Howey hopes both teams are undefeated when they square off on Oct. 18 at Lake Orion, with the league title up for grabs.
In addition to his starters playing as he expected, Howey said there have been a couple other players in particular who have stepped up their play this season. He noted senior Taylor Hargraves, who has been "a leader on an off the court, with a great work ethic." Howey also pointed out the team's No. 1 center, senior Gwen Motley, has done a good job this year.
With his team playing well, one of the biggest challenges it faces is avoiding complacency, the head coach said. "We're struggling a little with that right now," Howey said. "If someone isn't performing, there are girls on the bench very hungry to play."
He also hopes the schedule enables the volleyball team's performance to peak when the district playoffs start on Nov. 1. "The way we've laid the schedule out, during our last couple of tournaments there will be some tough teams, but they're not stacked," he said. "I hope we'll be on a roll.
"We've got a couple things to work on, but I think we've got a shot at Battle Creek (host of the state volleyball championships)," he added.
Lake Orion's only losses this season have come against three teams – Birmingham Marian, Farmington Hills Mercy and Rockford. Quite a rivalry has emerged this year between Lake Orion, Marian and Mercy, in particular, with the teams facing off in multiple tournaments.
The Dragons sport a 3-2 record against Marian this season and, if they advance far enough, would face them again in the regional playoffs to be hosted at Lake Orion. The Dragons have not yet beat Mercy in 2011.
They may have another shot this weekend, however, competing in the "Beast of the East" tournament, featuring a number of the top teams on this side of the state, including Mercy, Marian and Clarkston.
However the matches play out, Howey said he will always remember this season. "This is just a great group of girls," he explained. "They really support each other. It's been a lot of fun to coach them."