Rangers ready to compete

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North has some big shoes to fill with the graduation departures of Samantha Pirosko and Maria Blatnik but the Rangers do return four starters from a year ago and several others with varsity experience.

That has first-year head coach Samantha Muzic excited about her team’s potential this fall.

“We have some very strong leaders and a large group of girls who are willing to learn,” Muzic said. “The effort level that is presented every day at practice allows for us to prepare at the next level. We have multiple veterans who know what it takes to compete in this conference and district, which allows for our first-year players to become that much better by learning and playing with them.”

The Rangers, who finished 16-9 last season with an appearance in the Division I district semifinals, will lean on those veteran players while the youngsters develop in their new roles.

Senior middle hitter Lindsey Mausser, a Clarion commitment, and senior outside hitter Jill Borthwick are among the most seasoned Rangers.

“Lindsey will continue to be a leader offensively in the middle. Lindsey will bring years of varsity and high-level playing experience to help in a leadership role as well,” Muzic said. “Jill will look to make the switch from libero last season to outside hitter this season. Jill is a very consistent hitter with great defense that will look to help fill in our offensive needs.”

Senior outside hitter Grace Schaefer and senior setter Taylor Valaitis also will be called on to play consistently and provide leadership.

“Grace will look to add to the high-intensity offense that we look to bring to the table this year,” Muzic said. “Taylor will help run the offense and play a key role defensively as well. A multi-sport athlete, Taylor will use her growing volleyball knowledge to put us in a great position offensively each and every game.”

Juniors Julia Kerns, Olivia Oostdyk and Dhvani Patel will play vital roles this season.

Kerns is a middle/outside hitter and Oostdyk is a right-side hitter. Patel is a defensive specialist/libero.

“Julia, a returning letter-winner, will take on a larger role this year being able to play and make an impact in multiple positions,” Muzic said. “Olivia is a natural leader to her teammates who gets better every day offensively and as a blocker. She is another multi-sport athlete who is able to combine all of her strengths to become a weapon for us on the right side. Dhvani, a returning letter-winner, will use her consistency to lead us defensively. A leader in the back row, Dhvani does a great job of making sure everything is clicking through our defensive schemes and serve receive.”

Muzic is looking for her players to step onto the court each day and put forth maximum effort. If that happens, and the Rangers can jell, North could position itself for another deep postseason run.

“We have to play to our full potential every game and never be content,” Muzic said. “As with any season, any team can win on any given night, so you have to be at your best. If our leaders and returners continue to set the tone for how we play and what we expect as an entire program, we will have a lot of success.”

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The creator and publisher of OhioVarsity.com, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for IrishIllustrated.com, a member of the Scout.com network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. OhioVarsity.com was created in 2004 and was a member of the Rivals.com network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.