Perhaps it’s the onset of old age, but I find myself ruminating about a lot of subjects these days. Lately, I’ve been fixated on the high school Class of 2018, which very shortly will become the college Class of 2022.
It’s been my custom and practice every July to write a piece on Prep where I recognize those recent grads whose play, personalities or both left a lasting impression on me. I didn’t do it last year, perhaps because of my father’s death one year ago today, or due to time lost thanks to sojourns to Montana and Missouri as my youngest boy, Jordy, chased his youth baseball World Series dreams, but I find myself for reasons both familiar and new thinking about this group of young ladies about to embark on their next great adventure. And I just want to say to them, “Fare thee well.”
Fare thee well, Madison Gresham, the last of three sister hitters who got it done from the left side; and Marlie Monserez, the third and final sister to wear the Florida Gator uniform. I will miss both of you and your wonderful families!
Fare thee well, Brooke Nuneviller. Never have I ever seen a greater competitor. You’re in my home state now. Do NOT be a stranger!
Fare thee well to one of my favorite teams of all times, Texas Tornados 18 Mizuno. I watched you play at Crossroads at 15s and fell in love, with the intensity you brought to the court, your fun-loving attitudes off of it and a passionate parent group whose moms continuously clapped during every time out and whose dads filmed court side and held court with friends made near and far. Carly Graham mesmerized me with her sets, Emily Van Slate was tiny but could do it all and Whitney Foreman was lightning in the middle. We shared a lot of laughs over the years, right Tornados? Too bad the final chapter was marred by a curmudgeonly coach, but know that I ALWAYS looked forward to watching you play and silently cheering you on!
Fare thee well to another all-time team for me, Rage 18 Gabe. It was Vegas in February and I was sneaking into Cashman Field Center via side door to watch some 16 Club action when I was struck in the noggin by a peppered Whitney Barnes ball. Rage, which had won the 14s USAV Junior National 14 Open title the summer before, was taking a crack at playing “big girl ball” in Vegas. We talked, we laughed, we tried to set up the team’s “senior citizen,” Rachael Martin, a Class of 2017 member, with my eldest son, Tim. But mostly we bonded. I quickly became a Julia Handy fan. One of the most athletic setters I’ve ever seen, she helped her team win through sheer force of will. I enjoyed my time with Niki Cavote and Riley Patterson and Jaydn Tubbs, though I never got to ask the later what happened to the “e.” Rage was a true underdog team, in the sense that it was rarely the tallest or most athletic on the floor. No one competed harder. That’s a trait I covet. I will miss covering this team very, very much!
Fare thee well, Maria Mallon, the undersized redhead on Legacy. You stunned me at Crossroads playing and thriving through tears with essentially one arm and you stunned me more when healthy with how you played six inches taller than you were. Fare thee well to your teammates, Maddie Appleton, the libero turned setter for a stretch; and Chandlar Duff, whose father, Dwayne, always took the time to say “hello.”
Fare thee well also to Legacy setter Erin O’Leary and twin from a different mother Gabby Blossom of St. Louis CYC and Rockwood Thunder. Man is it fun to watch the ball come out of your hands! Effortless and accurate! I picked Gabby for the Andi Collins Award because her high school team played a more geographically diverse schedule, but could as easily have sent the nod Erin’s way.
Fare thee well to intensely entertaining setter Nicklin Hames. I enjoyed watching you compete and seeing you walking around wearing the JVA mascot’s uniform. It showed me you were serious on the court but fun loving off of it.
Fare thee well to Emily Dewalt and Jillian Slaughter of SA Magic. What a combo you two were! You made that team go and it went far!! I will say that it took me three years before discovering that the frosted tips your team’s dads displayed were, in fact, part of gimmick hats!
Fare thee well CC McGraw of MN Select. I spent an entertaining afternoon at the LVC stealing and hiding her scooter. I think I did it to mask my disappointment that a leg injury was preventing her from playing. McGraw was sooooo good in the back row, as money as any money defender I can remember.
Fare thee well to Ozark Juniors’ Lauren Thompson, Ella May Powell and Haley Warner. I don’t remember your superhero nicknames even though you told me at least twice but I remember when you played like Wonder Woman and Superman and Aquaman (though Raj tells me that “Aquaman sucks”). You put Ozark Juniors on the map!
Fare thee well to jumping jack outside Cat Kelly of ARVC and your kindly mom. Fare thee well No. 1 Senior Ace Thayer Hall. You were the bomb! Fare the well to Jade Parchment, my Metro queen. Fare thee well Ellen LeMasters and that jacket of green.
Fare thee well to the headbands worn by Marissa Hornung and Paige Jones. Fare thee well to my MAVS girls, Karoline Shelton, Allison Coens.
I’ll miss Sydney Bent, the hard-hitting lefty from my alma mater. And Shannon Williams. I wish she was my daughter!
It seems I’ve broken out in rhyme, I’m not quite sure why. I’ll continue on saying farewell and goodbye. Goodbye McKenna Melville, your all-out effort was noted. Goodbye Shanel Bramschreiber to your club so devoted. Farewell little Avery Bugg, cute as a button but skilled. So long to the Athena girls, their Open dreams now fulfilled.
Tayah Mahi, I loved your aggressive setting style. Miranda Wucherer your intensity made me smile. Devon Chang always got it done. Watching Kayla Kaiser play was just too fun! Gabby Leo, what a pocket rocket you are! Mica Allison’s athletic abilities will take her far.
Jonni Parker impacted the game whether setting or hitting. If you’re calling her the best in this class, I might say that’s fitting. Taylor Kuper always showed off her old school game. Lexi Johnson and Darian Clark helped East Valley Juniors gain fame.
Megan Yett, I think of you often and hope you’re okay. Holly Campbell I think of your dad when I kneel down to pray.
It was fun, Mackenzie Fidelak, sharing what’s in the Card. Sami Bray, for you the Ivies shouldn’t be too hard.
Keeley Davis turned into an impact player galore. Lacy Angello your family I just adore.
Only a few more names and I’ll be through. Farewell to the UNO girls and Ally Denemann, too!
Charley Niego, you made history with the Macs. Serena Gray, you’re really good, that’s just the facts.
I’ll miss seeing Lauren Tharp on the back row and Ella Ratzloff making a fast game look slow.
I’ve left Tampa Bay Volleyball Academy for last, there’s still room. To Amanda Phegley, Jenna Hampton and especially Lindsey Pliapol, I’ll end with a “Boom!”
I have no doubt I’ve left out a few. Just know I’ve loved watching each and every one of you!
Fare thee well…