Mary Hemer feels great about 2021 Cathedral High School volleyball.
“I feel like this team could really surprise a lot of people,” she said.
Hemer, entering her third season as the Irish’s girls volleyball coach, said while the Irish may not have Central Indiana’s biggest names – or a slew of players from big-time club volleyball teams– entering 2021, that may not matter. What the Irish have is a tight-knit, focused coachable group led by a solid core of experienced players.
The Irish also have speed and athleticism – and something else that’s important.
“We have a great group of girls who enjoy being around each other,” Hemer said. “They’re very much willing to take coaching. They’re willing to be brought back in when they’re a little unfocused.
“They’re just hungry – for opponents, for information, for play. They’re just hungry.”
The Irish, who finished 12-14 in 2020 to win the Class 4A, Section 10 title, will be led in 2021 by a four-member senior class that Hemer said will be key to the season.
“We’re reloading our lineup, but I’m really excited about the senior class,” Hemer said. “Our upperclassmen – juniors and seniors – are pretty experienced, but we also have some exciting, raw talent coming in. It’s a balance between fine tuning skills and really trying to teach everything.
“But it’s really cool to see. It’s a fun group.”
The 2021 Irish seniors:
*Captain libero Caroline Kubacki. “She’s kind of the glue,” Hemer said. “She does alot of things off the court. She makes sure girls know when they’re doing a great job. She just has a lot of those leadership skills that you really can’t teach someone. She naturally does some of these things.”
*Captain middle Katie Bremer, who also plays basketball and competes in track and field. “She’s just athletically gifted,” Hemer said. “She’s fast, athletic and she scores. It’s exciting to have her back with us.”
*Captain outside hitter/opposite Raven Rayford. “She’s come back this year with a super-fresh attitude,” Hemer said. “She has a hunger and love of volleyball that really helps other girls. She’s after it all the time.”
*Captain setter/defensive specialist Kelsey Bailey. “She’s just one of those clutch players,” Hemer said. “She could set. She may not, but she’ll be on the court regardless. She told me, ‘I don’t care. Whatever’s best for the team.’ That embodies what this team is doing right now. ‘Whatever’s best for the team. Let’s go.’ That’s an attitude a lot of the girls are taking on. Having her be an example and leader of that is awesome.”
Hemer said key roles also will be played by players such as sophomore middle Taylor Lewis, junior outside hitter/opposite Hannah Barbee, junior setter/opposite Mallory Dills and junior outside hitter Karsyn Kramer.
“They’re taking bigger roles,” Hemer said of the junior trio. “They dressed or played for varsity last year, but this year they’re taking on leadership roles.”
Juniors Caiti Barthel & Erin Emmick also could play key roles for the Irish, and Hemer said multiple sophomore and freshman could be key down the stretch of season.
“I don’t know if I can express it, but it’s just really exciting,” she said. “We have probably one of the hardest schedules in the state – if not the hardest schedule. This team is ready to duke it out. I know my girls are going to come out swinging, no matter who is on the other side of the net. That’s really exciting for me.”
Hemer said a preseason message for the Irish focused on the Olympic interviews involving the United States women’s volleyball team. The interviews focused on every player on the team having a role, and that message was discussed extensively among Cathedral coaches and players.
“We said, ‘OK, girls, define your role,’’’ Hemer said. “It was cool because they thought about it and talked about it. These girls are hungry and willing to do what it takes for the team. It gives me goosebumps because it’s hard to do that all the time - You have to have the right group of girls. To see them with this mentality is really cool.”
And because the Irish are embracing that approach as they build for the future, Hemer said she feels good about the state of Irish Volleyball.
“The things we’ve been trying to do, we’re really starting to see those things,” she said. “I never say, ‘We’re where we want to be.’ We have high standards here. But it’s very, very exciting because some of the things we’ve been trying to instill throughout the past seasons, I feel like some of my players have come in with this year.
“They’ve bought in. There’s growth from years past and I’m excited about that. It’s moving in the direction where we want to be.”