Lumberjacks get a big boost

From the time she was a freshman on the Onaway volleyball team, Mariah Ehrke was repeatedly told by John Dietlin, then Posen’s volleyball coach, that she was going to play for him one day.

On Friday, Dietlin’s declaration came true.

Ehrke and Alpena’s Taylor Genschaw both signed letters of intent to play for Dietlin and the Alpena Community College volleyball team on Friday, adding a great deal of firepower to the Lumberjacks’ lineup for next season.

“He’s been hounding me probably since my freshman year, saying, ‘You’re going to play for me someday,'” Ehrke said. “I’ve known John, I’ve seen his coaching style and that was a big factor; not only knowing the girls on the team, but knowing John as a coach was a big deciding factor.”

Genschaw was also familiar with ACC’s program, having scrimmaged against the Lumberjacks in the fall.

“It’s a good opportunity, especially to stay home and play here. It’s close to home and I’m familiar with the ACC program,” Genschaw said. “We scrimmaged them when I played at AHS and so it’s exciting.”

The signing of Genschaw and Ehrke is a major local coup for the Dietlin and the Lumberjacks, who are starting to draw interest from high-caliber players who have eluded them in the past. ACC’s incoming class also includes Reed City setter Heather Tacey, Elk Rapids libero Alyson Schell and Houghton Lake libero Sarah Garrett.

“Every year we try to go after the best student-athletes that fit our system and every year we’ve gotten to an increased level in communications and consideration from a number of them,” Dietlin said. “This year it’s all coming together.”

Ehrke, a four-year player for Onaway, rewrote the school record books in a stellar high school career. She finished her career as Onaway’s all-time leader in kills (1,419), attacks (4,519), digs (2,115) and kills per set (2.8) and also led the Cardinals to the state semifinals in 2012. This season she earned Class D first-team all-state honors, all-Ski Valley Conference first team and was a repeat pick for Alpena News Player of the Year.

The end of Ehrke’s career at Onaway was marred by an ankle injury during a district final game and ultimately left her sidelined for more than five months, forcing her to miss the rest of the volleyball season and all of basketball season.

Ehrke has been working out with Onaway’s track team a little bit this spring and is anxious to regain her dominant form and further her volleyball career. She and Genschaw will likely be solid two-way players for the Lumberjacks, providing an offensive spark as outside hitters and playing solid defense in the back row.

“Obviously I love volleyball and just getting to take my skills to the next level is very big to me and also to see my career further on and not ending at the point of my injury last fall,” Ehrke said.

Genschaw was one of Alpena’s all-around leaders on the floor this season and earned all-region honors and an all-Big North honorable mention as a result. She finished the year as Alpena’s leader in kills (219) and also had 274 digs and 30 aces and was a first-team All-Alpena News selection. She finished her career eighth in career kills for the Wildcats.

Genschaw is also a star long jumper and high jumper for Alpena’s girls track team and contemplated an offer from Saginaw Valley for track before deciding to concentrate on volleyball.

Alpena volleyball coach Melissa Doubek was Genschaw’s volleyball coach in fifth grade and knew right away Genschaw had the potential to be a special player.

“I was her original fifth grade coach, so I was there with her early on and right away she stood out as a volleyball player, right from the get-go,” Doubek said. “Taylor was a unique player on the team because she springs right off the floor and so she has a real quick offense. She was the deep player on our defense because of her speed. Her defense is really quick and she’s a good server.”

ACC returns five players next year, but is also losing outside hitter Whitney Frazier and middle hitter Danielle Krupp. Dietlin is counting on Genschaw and Ehrke to make their all-around presence known, but their attacking skills should benefit the Lumberjacks greatly up front.

“Every year, I’ve been amazed at the amount of progression she’s (Ehrke) made in her skill set. She’s a five-tool player there’s no doubt about it: she can serve, she can hit, she can pass, she can set if she needed to and she can attack,” Dietlin said. “Taylor is a multi-faceted, multi-tooled player. She’s quick, very agile, has great explosion at the net, so I see her being able to bring a level of quickness we’ve struggled with in the past.”

James Andersen can be reached via email at sports@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.