Chassell volleyball back on its own

CHASSELL — Chassell High School head volleyball coach Karli Michaels is honest and up front as she looks ahead to the upcoming Panthers volleyball season.

“It is going to be a rebuilding season,” said Michaels, “and that’s okay. It comes with the territory.”

This year’s team will no longer be combined with Jeffers High School.

“Because of this we’ve lost a lot of girls,” Michaels said. “We’d been co-oping with Jeffers for a long, long time. We’ve never known it any other way. So we’ll see what happens once the season gets started.”

This will be Michaels’ first year as varsity head coach. She had been been the junior varsity coach for a number of years. She only has nine players on her volleyball roster and some of those girls run cross country in the fall as well. Among them are Jenna Pietala and Lela Rautiola. Pietala is an all-state runner and both girls are all-UP runners.

“So these girls will miss some games,” said Michaels, “and that’s going to make it tough for us.”

Michaels is excited about the play of junior twins Katie and Janie Huhta. She said the 5-foot-10′ duo will play up front.

Michaels knows their play well as the two were on her JV squad last year.

“In fact, some of these girls have played for me since the eighth grade,” said Michaels. “So they know me very well, and that’s nice.”

She added that she is looking to sophomore Maelene Warren, as well as, seniors Carly Goddard and Pietila as her top passers.

The Panthers will play in the newly created WestPAC B (small school) Conference. Michaels’ vote is not out yet on this change.

“It certainly will be different,” she said. “I think it will be a lot more fair and give schools a lot more opportunity to play on a similar level. As well, we’ll see a number of new schools.”

Michaels and her squad will be put to the test this Thursday as they open the 2018 campaign against Baraga and Lake Linden in a tri-meet contest at Chassell.