By Steve Gunn

MUSKEGON – Off the volleyball court, Muskegon Catholic’s Zoie Price seems like a very polite, easygoing young woman.LSJ Logo incert

But when the games begin, and the ball comes her way, she unleashes her aggression, much to the detriment of MCC’s opponents.

Zoie Price spikes the ball for MCC. Photo/Michael Banka

Zoie Price spikes the ball for MCC. Photo/Michael Banka

Price, the Crusaders’ junior middle hitter, is one of the harder hitting prep volleyball players in the area. Her presence in the lineup is one big reason why MCC has high hopes of capturing its seventh straight championship in this week’s Class D district tournament.

Price recently collected her 500th career kill. Her confidence on the court has increased through two years on varsity, and so have her power numbers.

As a sophomore she registered 201 kills. This season she has 376, and will almost certainly double last year’s total before the season is over.

As MCC volleyball coach Laura Farrell simply puts it, “she gets a lot of kills.”

That’s the result of a lot of hard work on Price’s part, according to the coach.

“Last season our team was pretty young,” Farrell said. “The bulk of our players were sophomores and had a lot to learn. They were all so eager to come in immediately this year and put in the time and learn more.

“Zoie’s part was breaking down her attacks. We saw the improvement she made in the offseason, and we were excited to see what was coming from her this year.

“It’s been exciting to see her grow as a hitter.”

Price admits she loves to pound hard shots that opponents struggle to return.

“I just always have that urge to kill the ball,” said Price, who is most effective at the net, despite drawing a lot of attention and defensive coverage from wary opponents. “It just feels really good when I can hit the ball hard. My favorite thing about volleyball is getting big hits and kills.”

Price has been a multi-sport athlete since childhood, but amazingly didn’t start playing volleyball until middle school.

She quickly developed as a player, and was called up to the Catholic varsity late in her freshman season. Her early development allowed her to play alongside her sister, former MCC standout Caroline Price, who graduated last spring.

Caroline was an outside hitter with a powerful shot, and together the Price girls formed a powerful duo for the Crusaders.

Price says she loved playing next to her sister, bur ironically Caroline’s absence this season may have inspired her to become an even better player.

“My sister was really a role model for me and this season I wanted to become the kind of player she was,” said Price, who has 62 service aces and 44 blocks to go with her collection of kills this season. “I wanted to live up to my sister’s standard, so in the offseason I came in to the gym with my coaches and put in all the work.”

Price’s game has also been enhanced by a newcomer to the team – sophomore setter Amelia Heminger – who quickly developed an on-court connection with Price and started setting her up for a lot of big hits.

“We just clicked,” Price said about Heminger. “When she came over the summer, something just happened. We know where each other are going to be on the court before we even get there. We had a great relationship from the beginning,”

Price, Heminger and the rest of the Crusaders are very proud of their team’s six-year championship streak in district tournaments, and they’re determined to claim another trophy next week.

MCC, which will host the local Class D district tournament this year, will open with a match against Fruitport Calvary Christian on Tuesday.

But the Crusaders also frustrated by their team’s inability to move on and gain a regional title after districts, which requires two more wins. Last year the Crusaders were eliminated in the first round of regionals, and they have never won a regional volleyball title.

“It’s very frustrating,” Price said about the regional drought. “This year I think we have a good chance of going the farthest than we’ve ever gone. We have more potential. If we believe in ourselves I think we can go a long way.”

Coach Farrell shares the players’ determination to advance farther in the state tournament this year, but doesn’t want to the girls to get ahead of themselves.

MCC is 20-21-2 overall this year, playing a very tough schedule against teams from a lot of bigger schools. The Crusaders were 5-2 in the Lakes 8 Conference and took second place behind champion Ludington.

“That’s certainly been a goal for the team,” Farrell said about regionals. “A lot of these girls are in their third year on varsity, and they know what it feels like to fight for a district title, then go on to regionals and come up short. But we’re not looking ahead. One step at a time.”