‘Connoisseur’ Werkenthin emerges as team leader

Four-year standout steps up in last year of varsity volleyball

Thomas Melina Raab, sports editor

Head coach Amy Brodbeck calls senior Grace Werkenthin the “connoisseur” of the volleyball team. As a veteran senior on a young team, Werkenthin’s experience has allowed her to blossom into a captain and a leader in her final season of high school volleyball.

The road to Werkenthin’s senior season wasn’t easy. Just like many other sports, COVID hit the volleyball program hard.

In some ways, I think [having to wear masks last year] made us a lot stronger this year because now we can stay on the court longer and keep playing without getting tired.”

— senior Grace Werkenthin

Normally, the team would use the spring semester to build relationships and sharpen skills during the off-season. The sudden pandemic made this near impossible.
The dedication of the team overcame this hardship, however, as small groups of players came in for off-season training anyway, while others trained through their club teams.

According to Werkenthin, COVID ironically might have helped the team not hurt it.

“When COVID hit, I think the biggest thing was masks,” she said. “Running around the court and not being able to take it off just became a lot more tiring. We had to work a lot on our endurance because of it. In some ways, I think it made us a lot stronger this year because now we can stay on the court longer and keep playing without getting tired.”

This year’s team was nothing short of a rebuild. The senior-heavy roster of a year ago has yielded center stage to the next generation of varsity volleyball players.

Werekenthin and the four other seniors have risen to the task of leading this young team. In order to become a more effective team leader, Werkenthin switched her position from outside hitter to right side hitter and improved her passing in order to play all positions on the court.

“It’s definitely been a lot of stepping into leadership because last year’s team had two seniors who led the team and did most of that stuff,” Werkenthin said. “We’ve had to do things like learning to be patient with the new team and just picking up more skills on the back row.”

I’m pretty sure that I’m not going to play in college, but if an offer comes up from a smaller school that I enjoy I could potentially still go.”

— Werkenthin

The team has had their fair share of struggles early on in the season. Heading into district play with a losing record was not the way they wanted to start the year, but the girls have picked up steam in district play. Currently, the team is 12-3 and in second place after a 3-0 victory at Ann Richards that completed a season sweep of last year’s district champions. The win extended the team’s win streak to four matches. The team has won nine of their last 10 matches, heading into its regular season finale, a Senior Night showdown at home against the LASA Raptors tonight.

For Werkenthin, senior year might just be her last time playing volleyball competitively, and she wants to make the best of it.

“I’m pretty sure that I’m not going to play in college, but if an offer comes up from a smaller school that I enjoy I could potentially still go,” she said.

Regardless of her volleyball future, she cherishes her time playing at Mac.

“My favorite memory is probably just playing with some of my best friends and being able to have them by my side cheering me on during games,” she said.
Werkenthin and her teamates still have a lot of volleyball to play this year … in the regular season and hopefully beyond it.

Trailing 2-1 against their arch-rivals to the north, senior Grace Werkenthin and company celebrate jumping out to a 5-0 lead against Anderson in the fourth set on Sept. 8. Anderson would come back to win the fourth set, 25-20, and the match, 3-1. Photo by Dave Winter.