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Piedmont volleyball with big expectations entering 2016 season

Blake Colston
sports@piedmontnewsonline.com

After racking up the most wins in program history, hosting its first regional and winning its first postseason match, the Piedmont volleyball team is out for much more in 2016.

Blake Colston/Gazette Laureli Grothe goes up for a hit Tuesday night in Piedmont's sweep of Noble.

Blake Colston/Gazette
Laureli Grothe goes up for a hit Tuesday night in Piedmont’s sweep of Noble.

“I have high expectations for this season because we have a lot of returners and key players that play their positions really well,” head coach Lauren Bernhardt said.

Piedmont returns top outside hitter Brooke Spears, middle blocker Laureli Grothe and setter Hannah McGarraugh. All three have received interest from college recruiters.

That’s a big change from recent years for a startup program like Piedmont. Before last season, Piedmont was nothing more than a blip on opponent’s schedules. Fresh off a 22-win season, the Lady Wildcats have Class 5A’s attention.

“It helped put Piedmont on the board,” Bernhardt said of a record-setting 2015 season.

Now, Piedmont wants to take one more big step, said McGarraugh, the team’s senior setter. If the team achieves all it can, where can it go? A long ways, she says.

“I think it definitely takes us to the state bracket,” she said. “There’s a different atmosphere this year. It’s a lot more intense. Everyone has definitely picked up their game and is working in overdrive.”

Though McGarraugh plays setter on her club team, she didn’t set any of the previous three seasons for Piedmont while former setter Kasidi Hardy played. With Hardy graduated, it’s McGarraugh’s job now. She’ll play a big role in all that Piedmont does and she’s ready for the added responsibility.

“It’s been my home position since my freshman year,” she said. “I’m ready to seize the opportunity.”

Bernhardt scheduled tougher this year to challenge her team and prepare them for a possible run to the state tournament. That potential, which seemed hard to imagine four years ago, is a driving force for Piedmont this season.

“That would mean everything to us to set that legacy,” McGarraugh said. “It would show that our hard work has paid off and mean the world to all of us.”

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