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GCVC helps produce college players

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GCVC SENIORS: Mississinewa’s Halle Planck (left) and Oak Hill’s Ashlyn Transier are two foundation pieces for the Grant County Volleyball Club, which is now competing in its fourth season. Planck will compete in the fall at Manchester University while Transier will play for Anderson University.
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GCVC FOUNDATION: Helaina Walters, a senior at Eastbrook, used hard work and the Grant County Volleyball Club to help her earn the opportunity to play collegiately at Manchester University in the coming fall.

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

GAS CITY — The Grant County Volleyball Club made quite the impression at its EmilieStrong Memorial Invitational over the past weekend.

Four teams directed and coached by Lori Elson and Daysha Havens won their divisions, including the 11-and-under, 15-and-under and the 16-and-under teams. GCVC’s 13 and 14 year olds were runners up in their respective divisions.

The fourth championship team is one that is the club’s foundation, the 18-and-under Wildcats, a team that finished fifth in the AAU National Tourney last summer in Orlando, Florida with mostly the same group of girls this season. It is largely responsible for helping the club double in size in just the past year, from 58 to 115 girls.

The EmilieStrong tourney, developed because of the tragic passing of one of GCVC’s original members in Emilie Harnish, but the weekend was one of the final times three Grant County senior volleyball players will compete together in the club sport.

Mississinewa’s Halle Planck and Eastbrook’s Helaina Walters will continue on as teammates at Manchester University in the fall. Oak Hill senior Ashyln Transier, will revert to being a rival of the other two like in high school volleyball when she continues her career at Anderson University, a conference rival of Manchester.

All three girls gave credit to the club volleyball experience they shared for helping them develop into collegiate-level players.

“It’s been so important. I would not be the volleyball player I am today without it,” Transier said of her experience with the GCVC. “I started when I was a sophomore and I’ve made the best friends from it and (Elson) is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. It’s really helped me grow as a player and a person.”

Transier, Planck and Walters have all competed for the GCVC for three years now. Planck, like Elson, came to the club from Munciana, while Transier and Walters each got their first club experience with the Grant County club.

“I would say that this club has everything to do with me being the volleyball player that I am today, honestly,” said Walters, who is affectionately called Kathy by her coaches and teammates. “Lori and Daysha have pretty much taught me everything I know about volleyball. This club has helped me a lot. 

“When I started high school volleyball I knew that I wanted to pursue college volleyball,” she added. “So when GCVC came up it was the perfect opportunity so that’s what started my adventure.”

The adventure to becoming college volleyball players didn’t come from the club experience alone. Both Transier and Walters are softball players at Oak Hill and Eastbrook, respectively, while Planck played basketball as a sophomore and junior at Mississinewa before deciding to concentrate solely on volleyball in her senior year.

While Elson provided direction and helped build the talent in her three seniors, there was a lot more than went into it that the girls themselves provided. 

“Work ethic, definitely her work ethic. Ash is here all the time,” Elson said. “She can have a softball game, same thing with Kathy over at Eastbrook, they can have softball games during the season and they’ll come to practice after that. Even if they are here for only 30 minutes, they will get in the gym and touch the ball.

“You can’t coach work ethic. You cannot coach it and those two, I don’t have to ask them twice,” she continued. “They’ll just text me during the day and say hey I’ve got a softball game and I’ll be late and I’ll say okay, because I know they’ll be there. Some kids may use that an excuse...but not those two.”

Planck said the guidance provided by Elson has made it an enjoyable experience to work hard at getting better at her craft and also helped her grow away from the game.

“(Elson) really takes the time and gets to know us and she makes sure we know what we’re doing,” Planck said. “She just helps us with everything on the court and off the court. 

“This is where a lot of my growth has taken place because of how she pushes me and how she pushes all of us.”

While none of the trio of Grant County players were on the GCVC’s first team that was really founded by Harnish, Mallorie Havens and Elson’s daughter, Kristi, who is now playing for IU-Kokomo, they have become part of the club’s foundation. 

Elson admits Planck, Walters and Transier will be difficult to replace.

“Those three are kind of irreplaceable, I’m not sure what I’m going to do next year,” Elson said. “I’ve been able to see them grow, not only as players but as people from sophomore to senior year. All of them, really, are completely different players than they were as sophomores.

“They are the foundation of this program. Granted, that very first team that Emilie was on and Kristi and Mallorie that took 12th at nationals (in 2015), with (them) leaving (after) that year, that first year after they left, I was like alright if we’re going to do this, who are we gonna get?” she added. “We took lumps with those young kids when they were all sophomores because I took them on my 18s, but boy they’ve grown up and that’s a neat thing.”

GCVC’s 18U team won’t be completely devoid of its hitters next season and will return rising Mississinewa senior Kirsten Lockwood, Carly Ripberger a setter from Tipton, along with sophomore hitter Mariah Wyatt from Wabash, all who will likely continue to play collegiately. Elson hopes what her trio of local senior standouts have produced in the GCVC, both as players and role models, will help the club continue to grow in numbers and talent. 

“We’ve got tons of Eastbrook kids that look up to Kathy, and Oak Hill kids that look up to Ash,” Elson said. “Our young Mississinewa kids want to be like Halle. These kids have set an example. (The younger kids) love when our 18s go and watch like our 10s and 11s play, they’re like ‘Oh the 18s are here to watch us.’

“We’re such a close-knit club, these kids know their names and the little kids know (the older kids’) names,” she added. “It’s kind of like a hero, the little kids look up to them. It’s awesome.”