Storm’s changing of the guard

The Saranac Lake volleyball team, front row from left: Hannah Gochenaur, Holly Kurtz, Sydney Andronica and Kelsey McCarthy. Back row: Coach Mike Navarra, Nora Glover, Kaity Burat, Katie Gay, Madie Gay, Danielle Gonyea and Marissa Gibbs. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

SARANAC LAKE — There’s a changing of the guard for the Saranac Lake volleyball team this fall, and it’s a big one.

Except for two returning juniors, the Red Storm will feature a new lineup as they head into the CVAC.

Captains Danielle Gonyea and Marissa Gibbs are the lone student-athletes back from a varsity squad that saw 11 players graduate from a team that finished with a 9-9 record during a very competitive 2016 campaign. Second-year varsity coach Mike Navarra said although he has what amounts to an entirely new team, those players have stepped up from a solid Red Storm volleyball program overall.

“I think we’ve done the work. It’s not really rebuilding from scratch because we have a good modified coach as well as a good JV coach,” Navarra said. “Those programs are a complement to the varsity team. We have two coaches teaching the basics of the sport, so what I see coming up is individuals who have learned some skills, but definitely need to be exposed to the varsity level challenge.

“I think Marissa and Danielle will be key as far as leadership qualities on the court,” Navarra continued. “I think they will help, especially with the sophomores, when it comes to keeping their composure at all times. You need to keep your technique and mechanics solid, because once your mind goes, then your body starts to follow.”

Sydney Andronica, a sophomore, will have big shoes to fill in replacing Olivia Atkinson, who led the CVAC in defensive digs a season ago.

“I’m looking at repeating that with Sydney,” Navarra said. “She’s a super athlete. Looking at her footwork when we did ladders and stuff like that, she just stood out. It’s just getting her skills to match her athleticism.”

Madie Gay and Katie Gay provide the Red Storm with height and should be an impact moving up from junior varsity. Navarra said Holly Kurtz will be among Saranac Lake’s defensive specialists.

“I look forward to seeing some of the younger girls who have made the varsity team get to the level that I expect them to, that when you’re hitting the ball and passing the ball and your platform looks good, and you’re sticking with it,” Navarra said. “People can create bad habits, and it’s up to me to break the habits, but luckily our JV and modified coaches are putting together a program that when the kids get to varsity. I still have to refine their skills but they have the fundamentals down, and I think that’s key.”