Stoughton v-ball letterwinners

The Stoughton volleyball returning letterwinners front, from left, are Avary Rodefeld, Aspen Alexander and Greta Nashold. In the back row are Paige Schuttemeier, Riley Royston, Kat Eugster, Amber Hodkiewicz and Veronica Ewald.

First-year Stoughton head coach Rachael Gierhart will have plenty of options at outside hitter this season.

It’s a problem many coaches would welcome.

Stoughton returns eight letterwinners, led by senior right side hitter Kat Eugster, who racked up 170 kills and was named second-team all-Badger South last season. The other returners are Amber Hodkiewicz (middle blocker and outside hitter), Aspen Alexander (libero and defensive specialist), Avary Rodefeld (defensive specialist), Veronica Ewald (middle blocker and outside hitter), Riley Royston (middle blocker), Paige Schuttemeier (outside hitter) and Greta Nashold (setter).

Alexander excelled as a server last year with a 14.8% ace rate.

“Our team is strong at their individual skills,” Gierhart said. “We need to work on putting them all together.”

A trio of newcomers – senior Abby Lewis (outside hitter), junior Savanna Jemilo (middle hitter, outside hitter) and junior Piper Jensen (defensive specialist and outside hitter) – is expected to contribute right away, Gierhart said.

Lewis joins the team after being homeschooled in the past.

“She will give us strong and aggressive depth at outside hitter,” Gierhart said. “I’m excited to watch her come out of her shell and take some cuts, which she already started doing in our scrimmage at Edgewood.”

Gierhart said Jemilo is a powerhouse hitter coming off the bench, while Jensen will be relied on as a defensive specialist.

“Piper is one of the kids you can’t take off the floor due to energy and competitive nature,” she said.

Stoughton finished last season 14-15 and seventh out of eight teams in the Badger South. The Vikings lost to Monona Grove in a regional quarterfinal match.

Watertown remains the favorite to win the conference. Since joining the conference three seasons ago, the Goslings have yet to lose a league match. Milton is also a top contender for the league title.

“From what I’ve seen and heard thus far, I think we should compete with everyone in the Badger South,” Gierhart said. “My goal is top four.”

Gierhart takes over the reins as the head coach after serving as an assistant coach last year. She succeeds Jillian Bauer, a 2012 Verona Area High School graduate who took the head coaching job at her alma mater after Kelly Annen stepped down. Gierhart has served as a club volleyball coach for six years.

Sports editor Adam Feiner can be contacted at ungsportseditor@wcinet.com.