Bettendorf volleyball coach Mike Grannen knew that this season was going to be a bit different than others.
Between the intense sanitization of volleyballs and wearing masks during games and practices, Grannen has had his hands full. Not only was he stepping into a unique situation with an ongoing global pandemic, but this year marks the beginning of his career as a head coach.
The former assistant coach stepped into the coaching position after former head coach Diane Lichtenberg decided to retire. Lichtenberg had a decorated career at Bettendorf and left a permanent stamp on the program.
“She has led me for the past six years, so I have some great feet to follow,” Grannen said.
Not only has this season looked a bit different on the coaching staff, but changes have been made to the roster as well. With a strong core of six seniors, the varsity coach has also slotted four sophomores, those of which he has been very pleased with.
Grannen spoke very highly of starting sophomore Lillie Petersen, saying it was her multi-sport athleticism that led her to the success she has been having so far.
“To have someone who has the natural hand-eye coordination and the ability to read the game as well as she has is definitely an asset for us,” Grannen said.
The sophomore is already having an impressive season. With only five games under her belt, Petersen is tied for 11 place in kills. As well as being a deadly hitter, she is leading the MAC in blocks, making her a weapon on both offense and defense.
Petersen has been able to handle the pressure because of the support saying, “all the seniors are very welcoming. I feel very comfortable.”
This comfortable feeling is not isolated to only Petersen. Grannen also mentioned that his team was full of chemistry, facilitated by the strong core of senior leaders, who have created a strong foundation for the team on and off the court.
“To have a solid foundation for defense between Caidince [Cleveland] and Riley [Deere]... creates less chasing of the ball for Ellie [Aanestad],” Grannen said.
Grannen also mentioned on the offensive side that Grace Gasper, Johnaizjha Angel, and Annie Stotlar have all been consistent in the front row while still being aggressive.
“Since we had a lot of senior leaders last year, us seniors this year really had to step up and fill those roles,” said senior captain Riley Deere. Deere also went on to say there seems to be a general consensus that when the team is on the court, there is an overwhelming sense of gratitude that they are able to play.
Unfortunately, the team’s season was abruptly put on hold due to a corona case. However, Grannen remains positive.
“Our first day back should be a strong showing against Pleasant Valley. When we enter the gym on Tuesday, I know the girls will come in with the same aggression and intensity to perform at their highest level,” he said.