WEST LAFAYETTE -- For the first time in 32 years, Ridgewood High's volleyball program will be under new leadership this season following the retirement of veteran head coach Dan Smith.
But don't expect to see a lot of changes in the Lady Generals, as RHS graduate Kayla Crozier takes over the program from her former coach and mentor.
"Coach Smith is leaving some huge shoes to fill," Crozier said. "I'm going to do my best to be half the coach he was. After being his manager when i was little, playing for him and then coaching with him, I have learned mostly everything I know about volleyball from him."
Ridgewood is coming off a successful 2012 season with a mark of 20-5 overall and 12-2 in the Inter-Valley Conference, with the Lady Generals ending last season ranked 17th in Division III.
"I have some high expectations for this year coming off a great season a year ago," Crozier added. "This is a great group of girls with the ability and drive to put together a good tournament run this year."
A total of six letterman return from that squad with senior Laura Frazee (6-0, outside hitter), juniors Amanda Lowery (6-0, middle hitter), Erika Michael (5-10, setter) and sophomores Morgan McDorman (libero), Laura Crawford (outside hitter) and Allie Dobson (middle hitter).
With just one senior in Frazee, Crozier is hoping she will be a leader out on the court for RHS.
"Laura has worked really hard over the summer on her game," Crozier said. "She had a little setback with coming down with mono, but is getting back to normal now. She will be a key player for us this year."
Crozier feels that a strong area of her Lady Generals' squad will be their size along the net they can put out on the floor.
"We are hoping to use our height to our advantage this year," Crozier explained. "We are a young team, but one with a lot of experience and leadership as well."
In sizing up the race in the IVC, Crozier feels it will also be a year of change for the league as well with powerful Tuscarawas Central Catholic also having a new coaching staff.
"Our first focus is on the IVC," Crozier said. "TCC has always been a big league rivalry for us and they also went through some changes this offseason so we are looking forward to that game."
Serving as Crozier's junior varsity coach will be Hannah Ridenbaugh, which according to Crozier will be an added bonus.
"I'm really excited to start this adventure with Hannah as my assistant coach," Crozier explained. "We have been good friends for a s long as I can remember, and I'm fortunate to have her in the program with her knowledge of the game."
Crozier will also have a familiar resource to lean on in Smith, who will be around to lend support to his former player.
"I'm lucky in that I still have coach Smith coming around to help us out," Crozier said. "I appreciate all the advice and insight that he can provide to us."
Members of the RHS junior varsity team are Morgan Sharier, Veronica Roberts, Autumn Brown, Paige Goedel along with Leitz and Haynes who could see some time at the JV level.
"We have the potential to go as far as we want this year," Crozier continued. "It just depends on the little things and determination. They have put in a lot of hard work this summer and I'm eager to see them succeed and put all that work to good use on the court."