The graduation of two-year starting setter Karen Wildemann left a big void for the Columbus North volleyball team.
But instead of replacing Wildemann with one setter, Bull Dogs coach Caitlin Greiner has used three setters this season, often in the same match. Senior Hannah McKinney and juniors Maliah Howard-Bass and Mady Johnson have all been key contributors for North, which is trying to overcome the loss of seven seniors.
“Since Karen left, we did not have a setter that had true varsity experience,” Greiner said. “But we had three equally-talented girls.”
Howard-Bass saw some action as a setter the past two seasons when the Bull Dogs ran a 6-2 offense. But she was mainly a hitter.
“This year, it’s been difficult kind of with transitioning to being the No. 1 setter in three rotations because you have to read where the hitter is going to hit, and if it’s not coming to you, then you need to get to the net and be ready to set instead of waiting for it,” Howard-Bass said.
Not only does Howard-Bass lead the team in assists, she leads North in kills and digs and is among the team leaders in blocks and aces.
“Some games, I might be better at setting, and then my hitting might be a little off,” Howard-Bass said. “But it’s nice to be in the whole game. If my aspects are working for me that game, I can contribute to the team.”
“I think they’ve done well,” Greiner said. “They’re learning to run an efficient offense, and having Maliah play all the way around and hit some for us is also an added bonus.”
McKinney has been sharing setting duties with Howard-Bass in the Bull Dogs’ 6-2 offense.
“I really like running a 6-2 because it’s a lot easier, and it’s a lot less pressure because you have someone else to rely on,” McKinney said. “It’s been good working with Maliah and Mady. I think the hitters like hitting off our sets and getting a good feel of different sets that we do.”
Johnson, meanwhile, saw most of her action early in the season. Lately, she has been playing junior varsity, but has also been seeing some time with the varsity.
“It was a good experience,” Johnson said. “I like playing with them. They have good energy. I hope I can run a 6-2 next year with Maliah. I just have more improving to do.”
“Going into the season, having that depth and finding out which rotations were best for our team and what we were needing and going off who was setting well and running our offense well, it’s always nice to have that depth,” Greiner said. “In the past, we had Quin Shoultz, and then we went from Quin to Karen, and now having different options is nice.”
McKinney isn’t planning to play volleyball in college. She will likely attend Ball State and major in biology.
Howard-Bass, on the other hand, is a Division I basketball recruit. The second-leading scorer on last year’s Class 4A state championship team, she plans to visit IUPUI, Ball State, Evansville and Southern Illinois this year.
North (8-17) plays at Columbus East tonight. The Conference Indiana Tournament is Oct. 10, and the Shelbyville sectional begins Oct. 22
“We’re looking to beat East and push through conference,” Howard-Bass said. “Then, we’re hoping to get first or second in sectional.”
“I think that we need to have strong mental focus through these next games so we can try to beat East and have a lot of energy,” McKinney said.
What: Columbus East vs. Columbus North volleyball
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Columbus East High School