A new era beginning for Cougars

GREENFIELD — Travis Fuller knows all about the history surrounding Greenfield-Central’s volleyball coaching carousal. As the sixth new head coach since 2008, he’s heard the names.

From Jamie Andrews to Kelli Marchello to Rita Rouse and Kim Wildman. Most recently, the program was led by Deena Batton, a 25-year coaching veteran, who promised to halt the trend after she took over in 2015.

After accepting the job this past spring, Fuller, like his predecessors, has a vision for the Cougars’ future, and it’s going to require more than one year, which he’s ready to commit.

“Greenfield has talent, but they really do need some stability and some grassroots,” Fuller said. “I think we can be successful this year and in the the future. This is something we’re going to build into a powerhouse in Hancock County, but again, it starts with stability.”

A 2007 Carmel High School graduate, Fuller, 27, has had stints across the region and at various levels the past decade. From 2013-15 he was a assistant coach for Dave Shondell at Purdue University, where Fuller was also a student manager while working on his undergraduate degree the seasons prior.

A decorated player in his prep days at Carmel, he was named a 2006-07 Indiana All-Star. Later, he was a head coach at McCutcheon in 2012 and an assistant coach for Brad McCarter at Lafayette Central Catholic in 2010-11. McCarter’s team won the Class A state title that same year.

This time last year, Fuller was an assistant coach at Noblesville, and currently, he trains players full-time at The Academy Volleyball Club in Indianapolis as the director of player and coach development.

“Really for me, getting back into Indianapolis last year and being able to assist in Noblesville really gave me an opportunity to evaluate the area,” Fuller said. “Talent isn’t rare in the state or Hancock County. What is rare is finding kids that will go in there and work their tails off for you six days a week. That’s really what we’re trying to create over at Greenfield.”

So far, the team has responded, and their energy and excitement has elevated the program’s goals with four key returnees back from last year’s squad, which finished 21-12 and sectional runner-up to Mt. Vernon.

“You’ve got to set your goals high, and a sectional championship is something we’ve talked about as a program. I don’t think it’s outside of our grasp this year,” Fuller said. “I think we have a team that is more than capable to compete for that, and I think the team is ready to do it this year.”

Fuller’s belief is based on what’s he’s evaluated through training camp, firsthand, and talent alone could help the Cougars chased down their first title since 1987.

The Cougars’ front row has the potential to overwhelm, the coach said, especially with 6-foot senior Laura Banton, a Hoosier Heritage Conference honorable mention last year, roaming the floor with 5-5 sophomore Morgan Grigsby and 5-9 sophomore Haleigh Pribble.

“(Banton) has a lot of versatility. The kid hits really well in all three positions in the front row,” Fuller said. “We really worked hard improving her back row defense and serve receive so she can play on the left side for us.”

Banton was second on the team with 228 kills. She added 62 digs and 38 total blocks. Pribble has worked with Fuller through The Academy while Grigsby is a “high-flyer” despite her minute stature.

“She has one of the highest touches on the team, a great athlete, so I think she’s going to be someone that is going to surprise a lot of people,” Fuller said. “She might not pass the eye test because she is 5-5, but she’s pretty good.”

Senior Emily Diehr, a 6-1 Hanover recruit, brings 216 kills back to the middle while 6-0 sophomore Molly Broome returns at setter after posting 712 assists along with 52 blocks, 62 digs, and 42 kills.

“First thing I said when I found out Emily was going to Hanover is they got a steal with her because this kid could be playing Division I for somebody in the middle,” Fuller said. “Molly definitely passes the eye test. She’s tall, athletic and is someone with a lot of potential that continues to improve.”

Libero remains an on-going competition among junior Olivia Fortner, senior Olivia Joven, senior Morgan Colclazier and sophomore Hannah Burkhart.

The team will be without Madison Wise, who is focusing on basketball this season, and All-HHC selection Rachel Irbe, who is now at Eastern Michigan. Irbe led the team with 422 kills.

“Whenever you lose your leader in kills, there are going to be a lot of people wondering who’s it going to be? The one thing that is going to help us out a lot is that we’re going to very balanced,” Fuller said. “I’m really encouraged by it, and I think this team will succeed by committee. On a good night that makes you tougher to beat and on a bad night, too.”

team breakdown

Greenfield-Central

Coach: Travis Fuller (first year)

2015 recap: Greenfield-Central (21-12) finished runner-up to Mt. Vernon at the New Castle Sectional. Sixth in the Hoosier Heritage Conference with a record of 2-5, the Cougars placed second at the Hancock County Tournament, once again to the Marauders, but also beat them 2-1 during the regular season. After knocking off Pendleton Heights, 3-0, and Richmond, 3-1, in the sectional semifinals, Greenfield-Central lost to Mt. Vernon, 3-2, in the finals.

Leading the way: Seniors Emily Diehr and Laura Banton, who was named HHC honorable mention, return as the team’s two leading hitters from 2015. Diehr scored 216 kills with 96 total blocks. Banton was second on the team last year with 228 kills. She also had 62 digs with 38 total blocks. Sophomore Molly Broome returns at setter after posting 712 assists along with 52 blocks, 62 digs, and 42 kills.

Key returners: Emily Diehr (12), Laura Banton (12), Molly Broome (10), Haleigh Pribble (10).

First Serve: Greenfield-Central opened the season at Westfield on Wednesday. They travel to Richmond on Wednesday, Aug. 24.

Author photo
Rich Torres is sports editor at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at rtorres@greenfieldreporter.com or 317-477-3227.