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AYER — The Ayer volleyball has become a perennial participant in post-season play, but their luck has run out in the playoffs as they have matched up with the past two state champions. Despite the losses of Gina Gibson, Jess Peck and Kelsey McCallan to graduation, the Lady Panthers appear to have the weapons on hand to extend the season again, under the tutelage of first-year head coach Vic Wirkkala, who has been an assistant the past few years.

“The key to the season is one point at a time, one game at a time,” said Wirkkala. “We must stay focused on the task at hand. Our goal is to win the division and compete for the state title, but we want to win, but I want the girls to remember that it is a game and to have fun.”

The Lady Panthers will be formidable at the net this season with the 1-2 punch of senior Brynnan Farrington and sophomore Anna Peck. Both have the ability to score points offensively with strong spikes and to prevent points defensively with blocks.

“Brynnan has experience, size and power and she is a great middle blocker,” said Wirkkala. “She is athletic, has a great attitude and is a big presence at the net. Anna is very athletic and is a great hitter. She is also very coachable and is a very good defensive player in the back row.”

Senior setter Katie Ferreira is coming off an off-season injury and is an important member of this year’s squad.

“Katie brings a lot of experience and is very consistent with both her sets and her serves,” said Wirkkala. “Her role is an important part of what we do offensively.”

Also expected to start is junior Ally Fillebrown, who has a lot of varsity time under her belt.

“Ally is a very good all-around player,” said Wirkkala. “She is strong both offensively and defensively and is aggressive and determined. She is very athletic and experienced.”

Junior Josslen Morris is a junior setter/outside hitter who is in the mix.

“Josslen is athletic and she is becoming a force at the net,” said Wirkkala. “She is quick, hits the ball hard and is pushing for a starting berth.”

Another possible starter is junior setter Angel Yang, who can also play in the back row.

“Angel has great hands, plays good defense and passes the ball well,” said Wirkkala. “She is very quick.”

Pushing for time are sophomore setter/middle hitter Clara Watson, junior outside hitter Holly Mae Taylor, sophomore setter/outside hitter Shanna DeBalsi, sophomore Kendyl Trinque, sophomore setter Erika Esielionis, and senior outside hitter Kylie Wright.

“Clara has good size and good hands,” said Wirkkala. “She has a powerful serve and a great attitude. Holly Mae is hard working coachable and she listens and learns. Shanna is a strong all-around player who can set, serve and hit. Kendyl is a solid passer with the ability to serve and spike. Erika is a determined player with a good attitude. She has good hands and is a spark plug. Kylie can hit the ball with power.”

What are the team’s strengths?

“We will have strong play at the net and we have a number of players who can set which gives up depth there,” said Wirkkala. “The girls bring a super attitude with them and love to be here. They are willing to do what is good for the team.

“My concern is staying healthy,” said Wirkkala. “We compete against a number of schools that are much larger than us, so staying healthy is very important to what we want to accomplish.”