Ghormley looks to give Huskies options in their rotations this fall

HOUGHTON — When the Michigan Tech Huskies volleyball team takes to the court this fall, they will look to build off of a strong 2016 season which saw the Huskies struggle early, but get hot in the second half, earning a trip to the GLIAC Tournament quarterfinals.

With the graduation of Aubrey Ficek, the Huskies were looking new blood at outside hitter and with the addition of incoming freshman Olivia Ghormley, they not only have found a hitter who stands two inches taller than Ficek, but is also a six-rotation player, something head coach Matt Jennings believes could have an impact very quickly.

“[She] comes from a very good club [and is] well-trained,” said Jennings. “[She] has been playing at a very high level in a system that I think fits ours very well. [She’s] an all-around player. She can go six rotations.”

Having a hitter who can handle themselves through all six rotations is something that is highly valued in the college volleyball game, and that is why Ghormley has stressed improving her game throughout her high school and club careers in order to become the versatile player she is now.

“I think my position is very competitive,” said Ghormley. “There are a lot of outside hitters and that is very good. I think outside hitters are necessary for every team, especially when they can play in the front or in the back. I think it will be fun, for me, to try to find my place on the team.”

The draw of playing close to where her family has settled for the past nine years was very strong for Ghormley, who toured several programs out east before arriving on Michigan Tech’s campus and falling in love with the school, the area, and the team.

“I think it is the culture here,” said Ghormley. “It’s very different from the other schools that I toured. I liked the people here and the people at Michigan Tech.”

Ghormley comes out of the strong Wisconsin Volleyball Academy program where she has evolved her game over the past four seasons.

Playing club volleyball gave Ghormley a chance to play with stronger teammates and against better opponents than she had in high school, which pushed her to improve her hitting skills while teaching her how to approach passes from either side of the court, improving her versatility.

“I played six rotations my freshman year for school ball, but then for club ball, I never really played in the back row,” said Ghormley. “This year, for club, I played in the back row, so I have developed over the years. Freshman year, I really wasn’t strong in the back row, so that was something that I wanted to work on.”

Following in the footsteps of her new roommate and teammate, MacAulay Peterson, Ghormley took her advice and came up to Houghton early to get used to life in the Copper Country. The decision has allowed her to ease into open gym practices and weight training regimens with her teammates, which have been eye-opening for the youngster, who has already discovered how demanding the next level is off the court.

“I thought I was in shape before,” said Ghormley. “I got into the weight room and I was definitely not on their level. The first day, I was sore, I couldn’t move. They have been very helpful, super encouraging.”

The Oneida, Wisconsin, native has played four years of high school volleyball in the Fox River Classic Conference with Pulaski High School and earned 2016 Player of the Year honors while leading the Red Raiders with 436 kills with a hitting percentage of .359.

“Olivia is a point-scorer, and think she will be able to put up points in our league relatively soon,” said Jennings. “I think she comes pretty refined in terms of her skill.”

A right-handed hitter, Ghormley has an impressive vertical, which gives her the reach to get to balls that she might not normally find, and that will help her add to the Huskies’ attack.

“I have always emphasized getting a high vertical,” said Ghormley. “I always want to be increasing my vertical, no matter what. I think it is valuable to be able to jump high, because then you can see the court better, so it is better for an offensive player.”

With the Huskies’ emphasis on their service game under Jennings, Ghormley fits in well, having recorded a 15 percent ace percentage as part of her service percentage of 89.2. While she serves well, she knows that she has room to grow, especially when it comes to serve receive, something she improved on last season.

“I think my weakest point right now is how I serve receive,” said Ghormley. “I’ve always been super anxious. I think having a calmness inside me this past year has really helped with that and I want to just keep improving this year and the next four years here.”

With a balanced batch of hits in her arsenal, Ghormley should fit in well with the Huskies from the time the 2017 begins. She adds depth and an ability to be an effective scorer on the whole floor, which should give Jennings options when game planning.