Nate Schneider

Sports Scene


The last two seasons for DeWitt volleyball have ended in Class A regional finals heartbreak.

Could this be the year the Panthers carve out an even deeper postseason run?

DeWitt volleyball, under the direction of head coach Christy Drayton, has been one of the top programs in Michigan in recent years and with seven returning seniors in 2017 the writing was on the wall that this would be another special team.

The Panthers have lived up to those lofty standards as they ended last week with a 30-4 record and ranked fourth in Class A. Not only is the record impressive, but a 21-match win streak shows it is a team playing their best volleyball of the year as the postseason nears.

“The last two years and the way they ended really has motivated our girls,” Drayton said. “We went 44-2 last year and lost a tough five-set match to Portage Central in the regional finals, the second straight year we lost a five-set match in the regional finals. You get a little chip on your shoulder after a while. All seven of our seniors have been through this and want to push past that point so they don’t have that empty feeling again.”

DeWitt was led the previous couple of seasons by the graduated Lexi Nordmann, a 2016 Miss Volleyball candidate who guided the way to a combined record of 88-6-1 over the two-year period.

Nordmann is now playing collegiately at Southern Methodist University, paving the way for different girls to be front and center on this year’s roster.

Senior Grace George has met that challenge, accounting for a team-best 322 kills (4.1 per set). Junior Desiree Becker has racked up 244 kills and team-highs with 93 blocks and 28 aces, while fellow junior Sydney Mills has 144 kills and 22 blocks. Senior Bailey Yonkman has 91 kills and 56 blocks.

Setting up the hitters is senior setter Brooke Binkley, who has dished out 749 assists (9.6 per set), while leading the defense is senior libero Stephanie Starr with 273 digs (3.5 per set).

DeWitt won a sixth consecutive Capital Area Activities Conference Red title last week as it hammered Haslett 25-14, 25-17, 25-16.

While there are bigger fish to fry, taking care of business within the conference is not lost on the girls.

“It’s always a goal,” Drayton said. “When you win a couple conference titles in a row, you’re going to have a target on your back. Everyone wants to play you. We can’t overlook anybody and it still means a lot to these girls to accomplish that. Now they can turn their attention to our next goal.”

DeWitt will head to Lansing Waverly for districts next week.