Ready to Pounce: Greenfield-Central volleyball reloads for upcoming season

Greenfield-Central’s head coach Ron Heck gets ready to signal a play to the server during their game against Eastern Hancock on August 29,2019. Rob Baker

GREENFIELD — A year ago, Greenfield-Central volleyball coach Ron Heck admits he felt more like a manager than an instructor.

With eight experienced seniors on the 2020 varsity roster, Heck didn’t have to do much coaching, but he’s expecting that to change in his third year at the helm.

“I’m dressing nine varsity players, and three of my nine are freshmen,” Heck said.

Of the remaining six, five logged varsity sets behind the team’s senior core group last fall, and two are seniors this season in standout setter Morgan Hornady and defensive specialist Lauren Silcox.

The Class 4A Cougars lone junior is middle hitter Emma Berty, while sophomores Mya Grigsby, Katie Muegge and Finnley Greene help bridge the age gap.

“These freshmen that have come up, I have this phrase, ‘Welcome to big girl volleyball,’ and this is big girl volleyball,” Heck said. “We may not go 25-5 this year, but I feel that this is going to be my most gratifying season coaching high school volleyball because of the progress and the talent that I have. To see how the whole team progresses through the season, that’s where my gratification is going to come from. More that than the Ws and Ls.”

In 2020, the Cougars finished with a 20-9 record and were 4-3 in the Hoosier Heritage Conference, which placed them fourth behind Mt. Vernon (5-2), New Castle (6-1) and 4A state champion Yorktown (7-0) in the team standings.

In Heck’s first season as head coach in 2019, the Cougars were 18-13 overall and 2-5 in the HHC for sixth.

The 2021 campaign could go one of two ways for the revamped Cougars, but Heck and his squad have the talent to keep pace with years past, if not exceed expectations despite their varsity inexperience.

At the top of the reasons why list is Hornaday (38 aces, 215 digs and 490 assists), who has 1,715 career assists to her credit, according to Maxpreps, and the potential of Grigsby, a 5-foot-8 outside hitter.

“She’s the real deal, honestly,” Heck remarked on Grigsby. “She’s just extremely talented and she’s going to step in where (graduated seniors) Ava Antic and Makayla Price were. We have high hopes for her. She’s got everything.”

Grigsby was limited to roughly five varsity sets in 2020, but she cut her teeth at the junior varsity level and continued to develop with The Academy Volleyball Club in Indianapolis during the off-season.

“Because we were so stacked on the outside, she was the essentially the kid that carried the JV team,” Heck said. “We’re extremely excited for her. She’s just an all-around player.”

Muegge is projected to be an offensive factor on the right side, and Berty, who stands 6-1, is shifting from a pin hitter position to middle, which has been her natural spot through her youth career.

Greene is set to handle the team’s libero role.

“A lot of the game is confidence, in my opinion. We have some true leaders out here, and believe it or not, they are underclass leaders but they are true leaders,” Heck said. “They know our motto is when you lace up your shoes and you walk in our gym, we want two-and-a-half hours of 110 percent commitment. Motto two is we want to make practice harder than matches because if you put all effort into practice, matches will come a little easier for you.”

The team’s trio of freshmen are putting in the work and have been all summer as they continue to adapt to the speed of the varsity game.

Rilee Roland will occupy an outside hitter spot in the team’s 5-1 scheme. Avery Roberts, another one of numerous Academy Volleyball Club competitors for the Cougars, will see time at defensive specialist.

Harper Holden, a 6-0 freshman, who has been touted for her raw skills on the court by onlookers, will tower in the middle for the program.

“We’re going to take our lumps. My freshmen, all three of them are starters, so again, welcome to big girl volleyball,” Heck said. “But, this group of three freshmen have had a really good summer of training. They’re making strides every day. We’re extremely pleased at where they are now compared to the first of June when they had open gyms.”

Progression is the key word for the Cougars, who are focusing on both the present and future simultaneously.

“As far as us, we definitely want to end up in the top half of our conference. If we can accomplish that, then I think we’ve accomplished a lot of our goals,” Heck said. “This is the toughest conference in the state from top to bottom. Probably the toughest sectional in the state top to bottom. We have Yorktown, New Castle, Mt. Vernon and us. That’s pretty deep.

“In my opinion, I think Mt. Vernon is the cream of the crop this year. This is their year. Eric (Bulmahn) is a phenomenal coach and they’re just stacked top to bottom. I really think Eric could come out No. 1 in our conference.”

Come sectional time in October, Heck and the Cougars are aiming to contend, not just participate.

The Cougars lost to Mt. Vernon, 3-0, in the Sectional 9 semifinals in 2020 after shutting out Pendleton Heights, 3-0, during the opening round.

If they want to make a push towards the sectional finals and their first championship since 2018, that’s where youthful promise and senior composure will come into play.

“Morgan, we look for big things from her,” Heck said. “Last year, she played up. She was playing in the 17s division at club, and she played at Team Indiana. She was their setter on the 18-1s team, so she can distribute the ball very well. We’re excited to have her out there.”

2021 Greenfield-Central Volleyball Season Schedule

Aug. 16: Indianapolis Scecina at Greenfield-Central, 7 p.m.

Aug. 18: Westfield at Greenfield-Central, 6 p.m.

Aug. 24: Connersville at Greenfield-Central, 6 p.m.

Aug. 25: Richmond at Greenfield-Central, 7 p.m.

Aug. 26: Greenfield-Central at Eastern Hancock, 6 p.m.

Aug. 31: Delta at Greenfield-Central, 6 p.m.

Sept. 2: Greenfield-Central at New Palestine, 6 p.m.

Sept. 7: Cowan at Greenfield-Central, 6 p.m.

Sept. 9: Greenfield-Central at New Castle, 6 p.m.

Sept. 14: Greenfield-Central at Mt. Vernon, 6 p.m.

Sept. 15: Hamilton Heights at Greenfield-Central, 6 p.m.

Sept. 16: Shelbyville at Greenfield-Central, 6 p.m.

Sept. 20: Plainfield at Greenfield-Central, 6 p.m.

Sept. 22: Greenfield-Central at Yorktown, 6 p.m.

Sept. 25: Cougar Challenge, 9 a.m.

Sept. 27: Southport at Greenfield-Central, 6 p.m.

Sept. 30: Greenfield-Central at Pendleton Heights, 7 p.m.

Oct. 2: Greenfield-Central at Fishers, 10 a.m.

Oct. 5: Greenfield-Central at Hamilton Southeastern, 6 p.m.