CHASSELL - As outside hitter Kaitlyn Hietala and middle hitter Ann Ruohonen go, so will the Chassell volleyball team.
The senior and junior (respectively) pair form a duo that - when clicking - can consistently beat the block, fire kills with authority and are a go-to option for junior setter Alexis Pyykkonen.
Now Chassell coach Gael Filpus just needs to make sure that the two are always clicking.
"We need Annie. If I can get her to jump more and snap her wrist all the way, that ball will hit the 10-foot line easily," Filpus said. "She is working on it right now, and she is still young. But she has that natural power."
With only three returning players from last year's squad, the Panthers will be relying on Hietala and Ruohonen plently early.
But as Tuesday's game against Baraga proved, there are plenty of other hitters who can provide a boost.
Both juniors Kirsten Daavettila and Shelby Seppanen will get plenty of swings on the outside and middle hitter Madeline Huhta will rotate up top with Ruohonen. Huhta accounted for 11 kills Tuesday (leading the team), and will be needed as a complement to Hietala and Ruohonen for Chassell to have success in the Copper Country Conference.
"The kills she gets are always a huge boost for us," Filpus said. "I think Maddie can surprise herself. She is actually not that strong (physically) of a hitter, but she can do some damage in the middle."
Early in this season, the Panther team has flashed some strong runs of success and also some periods of cluelessness. They have beaten Hancock and Dollar Bay, however, and lost in five sets to Baraga.
So Filpus will take some up-and-down play, with the expectation that the team will find its groove later in the season.
"We start out that (scrappy) way and then by the end of the season we have built up our skills," Filpus said.
"This group of girls never really gets down. So they can keep being positive and aggressive and a few runs against us won't bother them too much."
Helping keep everything anchored on the court will be libero Jamie Dompier.
The senior has Filpus's total trust, and rotates between libero and right-side hitter depending on strategy. Senior Natalie Larson will also see playing time at libero.
"I like Jamie back there because she just grabs everything," Filpus said. "If the ball is by her she is going to get to it."