Posted On: 08/1/19 2:10 PM

2018 saw many high flyers, heavy hitters and speedy defenders. Area teams didn’t pull any punches during weekly matches which made for entertaining volleyball. Although with the departure of big names like Zimmer, Severance, Ziegler, and Ill to name a few, 2019 brings back a lot of power. Some of the areas toughest teams come back tougher than ever, making 2019 just as promising as 2018’s season.

We’re gonna take a look at the big names coming in the 2019 season. Thirsty for victory, hungry for titles, these are the ladies that will be leading their team to battle come August 22nd. This is your Preseason All-Thumb Team for the 2019 season.

Kaitlyn Arebalo, Preseason Player of the Year

5’10, OPP, Caro, Sr
Photo by Sport’s Finest

Starting strong with our Preseason Player of the Year, Kaitlyn Arebalo showed humungous promise in 2018. The left-handed opposite was the do it all kind of athlete for coach Bob Tobey. When she wasn’t shutting down pin hitters or bringing the heat with her attacks, she had a hand in Caro’s double setter offense. Last season, she ranked second on the team in almost every single statistical category. She brought in 242 kills, 316 assists, and 228 digs. She also put up a wall, stuffing down 81 attacks. That brought her career total to 205 blocks and 7th all-time on Caro’s Top Blocker’s list… and she’s a pin hitter!

While being a triple sport athlete earning All-GTW nods in all three sports, Arebalo split her team with club team IMUA Volley. She had a hand leading IMUA to qualify to the Volleyball Festival National Championships in Phoenix, Arizona. This coming season, rivals will have a field day trying to slow Kaitlyn down, as her last season is looking to be an explosive one.

Grace Schlaud

5’7, OH, Brown City, Jr
Photo by Huron Daily Tribune

Brown City has been a mainstay in the volleyball conversation for a few years now. Thanks in part to head coach Jenna Welke, she’s been producing power teams year after year with top-notch players. Grace Schlaud is another player to add to her illustrious list. Schlaud had an outstanding debut season in 2018. As a 6-rotation outside hitter, she proved to be a perfect compliment to Kendal Muxlow and showed big promise. Knocking down 321 kills on a .301 percentage, she was a scary surprise to area foes.

Although young, Welke commented on how mature her game become in such short of time. Schlaud being able to work around blocks and able to be unrattled by the worst of plays proved successful for the Green Devils. She’d have hand in leading her team to another MHSAA quarter-final appearance, their fourth time in five years. With Schlaud on tap for the next two seasons, it’ll be difficult to come away unscathed by the Green Devils. 

Ellie Hornbacher

5’9, OH, Caro, Sr
Photo by Sports Finest

Another Tiger is looking to have a big senior season. Along with teammate and Preseason Player of the Year, Arebalo, Ellie Hornbacher is going to leave her mark on this program. Last season saw the player turn on the heat late in the season offensively but was one of the best defensive players in the area. Bringing up 657 digs and honing a 95% service reception rate, she could have easily been a standout libero at any program. Her offense, on the other hand, started slow but came on hot when needed, downing 216 kills on a .153 clip to go along with 37 aces. Proven a steady passer, her offense will be of question for this season. Without the production of All-GTW MB Ashlin Murphy, one can expect her numbers to grow and at a better efficiency.

Amber Pleiness

5’8, MB, Harbor Beach, Sr
Photo by Huron Daily Tribune

Harbor Beach was a big surprise last season. The Pirates started shaking the boat with early wins against the likes of Millington, Frankenmuth, and L’Anse Creuse to name a few. A big reason for their major success came from the pair of middle blockers. Amber Pleiness was one half of the duo. A 6-rotation player for Stephanie Weiss, Pleiness did it all. On a superb .341 hitting percentage, she led the team with 328 kills. She also led her team in every other statistical category besides setting. Pleiness dropped 82 aces, 93 blocks and brought up 392 digs and 435 service receptions in 2018. She was honored with All-GTE and HM All-D3 honors.

Makayla Roberts

5’8, MB, Harbor Beach, Sr
Photo by Sports Finest

Rounding out the one-two punch of middle blockers for Harbor Beach is Makayla Roberts. Roberts, a well-rounded athlete is fresh off of a stellar track season that saw her earn two All-State accolades in the 4×200 and 4×400 relays. Her 2018 volleyball season proved also impressive. She ranked second on the team in kills and blocks behind Pleiness with 274 kills and 55 blocks respectively. She also finished second in hitting percentage, hitting a .301 clip. Roberts earned 2nd team All-GTE honors last season. In her senior outing, she and Pleiness look to remain in tandem with each other, testing area foes with constant pressure on the net.

Jordyn Conrad

5’10, Setter, Frankenmuth, Sr
Photo by Sports Finest

Frankenmuth has become known for talented setters in recent years, after the departure of current Hillsdale standout Lindsey Mertz, in came Jordyn Conrad. Jordyn had a pretty superb junior outing as the team quarterback. Leading her team to a top 3 finish in the Tri-Valley East conference, she averaged over 7 assists a set en route to 801 on the season. She also proved to be an amazing offensive weapon, dumping 186 kills with 61 aces. Her defense is one of the best for area setters as she brought up 273 balls and stuffing 40 at the net. Her play garnered her HM All-D2, unanimous 1st Team All-TVE honors and a spot on the AVCA Phenom List. A smart, dynamic setter, she’ll look to lead ‘Muth into another great season as she adds a sophomore outside hitter, Zoey Persails, to her artillery of weapons.

Abbey Salcido

5’5, Libero, Cass City, Sr
Photo by Sports Finest

Cass City is their name, defense is their game. In 2018, this team proved to not be taken lightly as their defense made things difficult for foes to get a quick point. Cass City lead the area in digs and digs per set, Abbey Salcido had her hand in this feat. As a 3-rotation defensive specialist, Salcido made her name known. As she had the abilities to take on libero duties for any team she pleased. Behind 1st Team All-Thumb libero, Kelly Ziegler who brought in over 1000 digs, Abbey wasn’t far behind. Bringing up over 400 digs and 400 successful receptions, Salcido made the worry of replacing an All-Star libero not one at all. Salcido is on deck to have a phenomenal senior season as Cass City is again one of the top teams in the running for a conference title.

Grace Williamson

5’8, OH/MB, Unionville-Sebewaing, Jr
Photo by Huron Daily Tribune

Grace Williamson is next in line as a USA volleyball standout. After a successful sophomore year from volleyball, basketball, softball and to track. Williamson looks to have what it takes to be the next star for USA. She was a part of two teams that saw themselves in the finals (volleyball and softball), softball coming out the victor in Division 4. She was also one of the fastest runners, not only in her division but in the entire state. Unfortunately, Grace took a blow during the spring season with a hip fracture. This injury sidelining her for the remainder of the season. If she can prevail through the injury soon enough, she can have a pretty explosive season in 2019. In USA’s postseason run, Grace put down 73 kills on a .295 hitting percentage and put up 65 digs.