Steinkirchner’s thrilled, ready to lead Bulldogs

Audrey Steinkirchner prepares to slap hands with a teammate during practice for Palisade’s volleyball season. Steinkirchner was the Western Slope League co-player of the year last season, and is one of five returning starters for the Bulldogs.

Palisade’s Audrey Steinkirchner hits the ball over the net during practice for the Bulldogs’ volleyball season. Steinkirchner, one of the team’s leaders, has been looking forward to her senior season.



League: Southwestern (5A)

Coach: Beth Nelson (6th year)

2009-10: 15-7 (6-4), eliminated in districts.

Key players: Demi Ruder, Sr., L; Kimber Baker, Sr., OH; Rayleigh Norton, Soph., S; Taylor Head, Soph., MB; Robbi Termentozzi, Jr., MB.

Outlook: The Warriors will be young, with several sophomores possibly starting this season, and will be led by Ruder.

Fruita Monument

League: Southwestern (5A)

Coach: Bob Richardson (2nd year)

2009-10: 18-4 (8-2), eliminated in districts.

Key players: Katy Haerle, Sr., OH; Teddi Larson, sr., MB; Michelle Midgely, SR., L; Jen Morris, Jr., S; Danae Ungaro, Soph., S.

Outlook: Young players will be called on to pick up for the loss of some key ball-control players and their leading hitter.

Grand Junction

League: Southwestern (5A)

Coach: Leslie Vines (2nd year)

2009-10: 6-14 (1-9), did not qualify for districts.

Key players: Kricket Adleman, Sr., OH; Justine Roof, Sr., MB; Katie Walker, Sr., OH; Margaret Harris, Sr., S.

Outlook: The Tigers lost their all-conference libero, junior Rachel Stahl, to a knee injury, but return most of the team and expect to continue to build off Vines’ first year.


League: Western Slope (4A)

Coach: Wendy MacAskill (5th year)

2009-10: 16-10 (9-3), eliminated in regionals.

Key players: Shannon Rhodes, Jr., S; Mecia Dearth, Sr., MB/RS; Audrey Steinkirchner, Sr., MB; Jenny Thibodeau, Sr., L; Lyndsay Dorris, Sr., DS.

Outlook: With several returning players, the Bulldogs are ready to challenge Eagle Valley for a league title and make a run for state.

Audrey Steinkirchner was originally a basketball player, until the contact became too much.

She started playing volleyball in seventh grade and committed to it in the eighth grade, joining a club team. Since then, she’s played year-round.

Now, the 6-foot-2 Palisade High School senior is one of the leaders of a team with high expectations this season.

“I’ve been looking forward to my senior year for four years,” Steinkirchner said. “I’ve admired the seniors so much. All I could ever hope was to be like them.”

Now her time has come.

“Me and the other seniors, Jenny (Thibodeau), Mecia (Dearth) and Lyndsay (Dorris), have all taken the role of a leader heavily,” Steinkirchner said.

“We have watched all the seniors before us and know what we’re supposed to do. We’re really excited. This is going to be the year.”

That leadership will be instrumental in the Bulldogs’ success, along with Steinkirchner’s ability to block the opposing team’s attack.

“Audrey is definitely one of our team leaders,” Palisade coach Wendy MacAskill said. “She’s going into her fourth year as a varsity player, so the girls definitely look to her for leadership. She’s a good person on and off the court and knows how to conduct herself.”

Steinkirchner started on Palisade’s varsity as a freshman, but was the setter. As a sophomore, she started at right-side hitter before moving to middle blocker last season.

She is most proud of being the front line of defense.

“The middle blocker runs the net,” Steinkirchner said. “They are in charge of talking at the net, showing the other blockers where the hitters are.

“I take that role happily, because defense is the most important part of the game.”

She led the Bulldogs in blocks and was one of their top hitters last season.

“She’s the first person to be possibly able to touch the ball or stop the other team’s attack, and with her stature, (Steinkirchner) has a presence at the net,” MacAskill said. “That’s a presence we haven’t always had. It’s great to be able to get blocks for points.”

Steinkirchner was the Western Slope League co-player of the year last season and is one of five returning starters for Palisade, which finished 16-10 and was one win away from qualifying for the Class 4A state tournament last season.

“We were really close,” she said. “We can taste it. We want to take it this year.

“We have a strong team dynamic. We’re really close. The relationships we have with each other is extremely significant. We all have the desire to make it.”

Dearth is back on the front line with Steinkirchner, along with setter Shannon Rhodes. Thibodeau is the libero and Dorris is a defensive specialist.

“What’s unique this year, several other players, including Mecia, have stepped up and will be a part of our offense. Some of those options weren’t always available last year,” MacAskill said. “(Steinkirchner) shouldn’t have to shoulder the offense all on her own this year.

“This year, we look to improve and go an extra step further. We definitely have some high expectations for ourselves this year, but I think, assuming everybody stays healthy, those are attainable goals.”


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