Chelsea motivated to bounce back with young rising stars

Published 12:36 pm Thursday, August 24, 2023

By SETH HAGAN | Special to the Reporter

CHELSEA – Last year didn’t end the way Chelsea wanted. A talented team with four All-County performers fell short of their goals while competing in Class 7A for the first time.

For senior Mary Kendyl Dojonovich, it’s been pushing the team since the 2022 season ended.

“That feeling of defeat is what motivates us,” Dojonovich said. “We don’t want to feel that way ever again. We can’t have too big of a head, we have to work for everything and it can be taken from us, and that’s motivating.”

If you ask Chelsea head volleyball coach Jamie Gill, she believes her team can still accomplish those goals with a new season just on the horizon.

“Honestly, I think we have the same opportunity to perform at a high level and turn some heads this season as well,” Gill said. “Our team chemistry is the best it’s been since I took over at Chelsea. I think that plays a big role for female athletics, and we’re all on the same mission working together.”

The Hornets lost five seniors last year, but have a group with a lot of potential that’s been playing with each other since the seventh grade.

Senior Cara Belcher will be taking over for Madison Moore at setter and directing the offense for the first time. It’s a big challenge, but her familiarity with her teammates figures to smooth the transition.

“I think it’s definitely a big leadership role to take on, especially with Madison leaving, she left a big legacy, but I’ve known these girls forever, and I think we’ve built the kind of chemistry we need to succeed this year,” Belcher said.

Laura Buchanan had a breakout year with a super sophomore season leading the team in kills and all of Shelby County in service aces. Still, the rising junior takes it in stride and credits her teammates for her performance.

“None of it’s possible without the team,” Buchanan said. “You can’t hit without a good set and you can’t set without a good pass. I owe everything to them and as we progress more and more it’s going to pay off in the end.”

Another young Hornet is set to make noise as Gill has tapped freshman Alexis Rudolph to start at outside hitter this year. Gill says she has the mental toughness and volleyball IQ it takes to compete at the varsity level.

“She’s kind of holding down the outside spot that Emma Pohlmann was at last year,” Gill said. “She’s doing fantastic and we’re excited for her to step into that role.”

The expectations at Chelsea haven’t changed and Hornets fans can expect a highly-motivated group to come running out of the gate this year.