Jillian Bauer is no stranger to the high expectations associated with Verona volleyball.
Bauer starred as a player for the Wildcats under coach Kelly Annen. Now, Bauer faces the task of continuing the program’s successful tradition as Annen’s successor.
“The transition has been pretty smooth,” Bauer said. “Coming into a program where I’m familiar with things certainly helps, and everyone has been really welcoming.”
Bauer, a 2012 VAHS grad, played at Ohio State, then transferred to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay to finish her collegiate career. She was the varsity head coach at Stoughton last season.
Verona finished 34-6 last season, winning its second regional title in a row and sixth since 2010. The Wildcats return seven letterwinners, including five starters.
“I expect our seniors to have a big impact for our team this season,” Bauer said. “A number of them have been on varsity since their freshman year and have developed into great leaders.
Bauer said this season’s team has depth on the pins and along the back row. Maddy Kelley recorded a .391 hitting percentage and 167 kills as a junior last season, and this year she will team with outside hitters Megan Touchett, Kylie Magnus and Claudia Bobb up front.
“We want to work together and leave everything on the court,” Kelley said. “Sometimes we have the tendency to focus on one player, and with volleyball being a team game, we need to be unified.”
Defensive specialist Amelia Just recorded 444 digs as a junior last season and will once again man the back row with classmate Rachel Karnosky. Setter Jordan Armstrong is coming off a strong junior campaign that included 525 assists.
Bauer pointed to key newcomers as senior Rachel Witthuhn; juniors Anna Bohrer, Alyssa Bostley, Emily Karnosky, Katie Trias and Kate Valitchka; and sophomore Delaney Mcintosh.
Waunakee ended Verona’s season in the sectional semifinals last season. Bauer pointed to the Warriors and Big Eight powerhouse Sun Prairie as contenders in the sectional this year.
Verona will host the Division I Sectional 3 semifinals, and Sun Prairie will host the sectional final.
“I expect us to finish high in the Big Eight and compete with the top teams,” Bauer said. “Verona, Sun Prairie, Middleton and Janesville Craig are always competing at the top of the conference.”