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New, old faces should transform Giants

BY CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

If Marion volleyball coach Larry Hinshaw seems down right giddy about the Giants’ prospects coming off a two-win season, you are not wrong.

While the Giants might not suddenly become state contenders, it’s a near certainty they will be a much-improved team this upcoming season. Everyone is back along with one big addition who previously made a major impact and one or more impactful freshmen.

The Giants resume offseason preparations this week with open gyms on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays leading up to the official start for practices on August 5. Hinshaw also hopes to enter his team in a Munciana tournament this weekend at Ball State University or another tournament later in the month.

“We’re farther along,” Hinshaw said Friday. “The skills are more refined, they’re more in shape, and we’re seeing how the new players coming out to the workouts have progressed and how they might fit in, as well as the incoming freshmen.”

Hinshaw did not play a single senior last year in his first season as coach and Marion finished 2-30. The Giants were small in numbers and size, but that will change with 6-foot-6 RaShaya Kyle’s return after she sat out last year to focus on basketball. Kyle has committed to play basketball for Purdue University.

As a sophomore, Kyle led the Giants with 247 kills and 61 total blocks, and her return is most welcome to a Giants team that put down 308 kills collectively a year ago. Miranda Riggs led the Giants with 89 kills last year and is back for her senior season.

“The biggest thing with RaShaya is she’s been working hard and enjoying what she’s doing and learning,” Hinshaw said. “We’ve been showing her somenew things at the middle (hitter) position to hopefully make her a little more productive.

“Being 6-6 she comes across as a threat,” he added. “She makes us look more mobile, and we want to incorporate her strengths with her teammates to give us some better offensive scenarios.”

There are other move-ins or first-time players who could help, but Hinshaw hasn’t seen enough of them this summer to determine their potential roles.

The same can be said of the incoming freshmen, although he said Culeeya Jones has shown potential as a setter.

“Culeeya Jones is very quick and strong in the setter position and I’ve got a lot of hope for her,” Hinshaw said. “However, she had a little snag last week and tweeked her shoulder and is going to be out a week or two. There are some other (freshmen) but I still need to learn about them because they haven’t been coming to open gyms regularly yet.”

Several of the returnees could have different roles, most prominently setter Lucia Persinger who at 5-9 is one of the Giants’ tallest players and one of their better hitters. Hinshaw said he is considering a two-setter offense that would give Persinger more opportunities to attack.

In all, Hinshaw said between five to eight new players can make an impact for the Giants’ varsity and junior varsity teams, and that should create greater competition for positions. He said the returnees have been intent on becoming better conditioned and changing the losing culture of the program.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Hinshaw said of the upcoming season. “We’re going to see how the pieces fit. There will be some old, some new, some that have not been out in a year or two, and the incoming freshmen. We could have some who played all the time last year who will play only the front row or back row or not play at all if they didn’t get in shape or come for the summer workouts.

“It really is going to be interesting to see how we truly look and there are a lot of good signs,” he continued. “All in all, we feel like we’re in a better place than last year.”