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Center Grove’s volleyball team off to 13-1 start and No. 1 ranking
By Nathan Pace
Southsider Voice correspondent
Center Grove volleyball coach Dana Daprile expected good things out of this year’s team ... and she hasn’t been disappointed. The Trojans are 13-1 and ranked No. 1 in Class 4A by IndianaPrep
Volley.com, a new poll unveiled this week, and No. 2 in the coaches poll.
“Our saying this year is ‘Up the ante,’ ” the third-year coach said. “Holding each other accountable, setting higher expectations than we have in years past. That carries out into practice. That has helped us set the bar high.”
Daprile, a 2005 Center Grove graduate, attributes the team’s success to experience and leadership. “My first two years we were a younger team, and now we have the leadership that we haven’t had since I’ve been coaching.”
The Trojans featured only one senior last season yet made it through sectionals before losing to Columbus East in regional action. This year they boast three seniors and a couple of juniors who have committed to Division I colleges in power conferences.
Middle blocker Alison Line will play volleyball at Illinois State next season. Other senior leaders include setter Abbie Hardesty and outside hitter Regan Wentland, who will play basketball at Indiana State next year. Junior setter Taylor Hammill has committed to Auburn, and junior middle blocker Madison Smeathers has committed to Ohio State.
“They come into practice wanting to get better,” Daprile said. “They’re not content. As a coach that’s exciting to see because I know that they’re all in.”
Center Grove rose in the rankings thanks to defeating preseason No. 1 Avon to start the year. Since then the team’s only loss has been to No. 1 Roncalli in the Yorktown tournament.
The Roncalli loss “was a good experience for us in that we learned we’ll be a target,” Daprile said. “But I think you learn more about your team when you lose. It’s a chance to look back on what you need to work on.”
The competition on the Southside is tough as Perry Meridian has also been ranked in the top three. One advantage the Trojans have is height, with four girls over 6 feet. Perry Meridian, which Center Grove defeated in four sets Sept. 10, only has two. For perspective, the University of Indianapolis only has three women at 6 feet or higher. Smeathers and right hitter Tonia Rumble are listed at 6-3 and are taller than anyone on the Greyhounds’ squad.
Despite its lofty ranking, Daprile wants to make sure that her team doesn’t lose its focus.
“We really don't talk about rankings,” she said. “The bottom line is we know that rankings don't mean much at all, but we do know that we want to let our actions to speak (instead of rankings).”
For Daprile, her job at Center Grove is the result of a journey that started 10 years ago there as a player under Deb McClurg. Daprile was a key part of successful Trojan teams with younger sister Katie, who’s on the school’s staff. Daprile earned a scholarship to Butler, where she finished fifth all-time in assists. After Butler she was accepted as a graduate assistant at Tennessee under coach Rob Patrick.
“I've learned from every experience, starting with Deb McClurg at high school and everywhere I’ve been since then,” Daprile said.
Returning to her alma mater and coaching girls wearing the same jersey number she once donned could be challenging, but Daprile says it was a smooth transition coming back in 2012.
“Center Grove is a special place to be. In a way it is a dream job because I’m working at the school that meant a lot to me, and now I’m helping kids go through it.”