Pine River opens volleyball season at Saturday tournament

LEROY — Pine River volleyball coach Jana Dennis will get a quick look at her team this Saturday for perhaps an early indication of what the Bucks can expect this season.

This is about the sixth season the Bucks will open at the Traverse City Central Invitational. They have a home quad next Monday. TC Central will be among the teams the Bucks will face.

Key returning players include senior middle hitter Brittany Davis, junior middle hitter-outside hitter Kyla Johnson, senior setter Morgan Sumpter, junior setter Jenna Johnson, junior defensive specialist Tailor Charles and senior right-side hitter Natalie Murrey.

Johnson, Davis and Charles saw extensive action last season.

Kassy Nelson, who would be a senior, chose not to come out for volleyball this season.

“We’re young but they’re very excited,” Pine River coach Jana Dennis said. “They’re hungry to learn. They’re hard workers and they like to have fun. They seem to mesh together so far. The ones moving up will be good additions to our team.”

Outside hitters Kaylee Goodman and Julie Justin are among the new players who could also see extensive playing time.

“Communication is strong for them,” Dennis said. “Serve receive is where we need to spend a lot of time on. It’s a strong serving team as well. Our setting position will be the biggest challenge. We have two setters that didn’t do a lot of setting last year. That setter-hitter communication is something we’ll be focusing on.”

In the Highland Conference “everybody seems to be making improvements,” Dennis said. “Obviously, Beal City is going to be that team. McBain will be strong. Lake City was stronger than they’ve been there in the past. The two biggest teams we need to focus on are McBain, because of the rival between the two schools, and Beal City, of course.”