FRIDAY FEATURE

Led by a strong senior class and junior superstar, all the stars have aligned for Crawfordsville volleyball

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Crawfordsville volleyball won just six games in 2018.

But there was no doubt the Athenians time was coming.

A perfect storm was brewing.

As freshmen, the senior class now of Liddy McCarty, Shea Williamson, Olivia Reed, Alyx Bannon, and Taedyn Cook had earned valuable experience playing varsity, meanwhile now junior Macy Bruton was expected to make an impact as a freshman in 2019.

And did she ever.

Led by Bruton’s 365 kills, the Athenians improved their record to 14-14 in the fall of 2019.

Bruton wasn’t the only new Athenian contributing that season though. Laine Schlicher moved to Crawfordsville as a sophomore in 2019 when her Dad accepted the position as the new Athenian football coach.

The transition sparked an immediate offensive juggernaut.

“When I come here, I didn’t really know anyone, but I knew Macy and I knew us two together would be great,” Schlicher said.

The duo, who are cousins by blood and sidekicks on the court, have revitalized the Athenian volleyball program — searching for its first sectional title since 2007.

Shortly into just their third season playing for Crawfordsville, Bruton eclipsed the 1,000 kill mark, while Schlicher hit 1,000 assists.

“I feel like we can read each other really well,” Schlicher said about Bruton. “We don’t even have to say anything.”

“We just look at each other and we know,” Bruton added.

This fall the Athenians are 23-6, posting 20+ wins for a second-straight season, heading into the sectional. A feeling well worth the wait.

“We knew we went through a couple years where we weren’t super athletic and there’s nothing you can do about that,” longtime Crawfordsville volleyball coach Kelly Johnson said. “That’s something where you want your skill to go as far as you can, but athleticism you can’t put into an individual. So we just had to wait our turn and know we had good things coming down the road, and we’ve proven that.”

The senior class now showed potential even in a struggling 2018 campaign — but they welcomed both Bruton and Schlicher with open arms.

“I think we were just really excited to have them both, because we knew they were going to benefit our team,” senior Shea Williamson said.

On the season, Bruton has 532 kills — pushing her career mark to 1,486, which topped the county record of 1,433 set by Southmont’s Lexi Nelson in 2019. Her 532 kills on the season is second in the state. Schlicher has 832 assists, which is seventh most in the state, while Reed has 258 digs and Bruton 288. Junior Hallie Gayler has chipped in 186 kills and Williamson 132, while Bannon has 32 solock blocks and Gayler has 32.

While Bruton and Schlicher helped turn the program back around by making an immediate impact — the perfect balance comes from the senior class.

“I think it was almost kind of expected of us,” senior libero Olivia Reed said. “Especially as a senior class. We have a very athletic class and it was just kind of time to pick it up all the way around and I think we have done well with that and Macy definitely helped us out.”

A senior class that wants to win, and has paid their dues to do so.

“That’s huge for any program,” Johnson said of the seniors who gained experience as freshmen. “We’ve had kids come in as freshman and develop into leaders. The more varsity experience any athlete has, the better and we really value their experience and their drive and leadership abilities. They are hardnosed kids who want to work hard, play hard, and they want to win.”

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