By John Bassetti
Rachell Storm made several appearances in volleyball regionals when she played at Crestview High before graduating in 2007.
Rachell Storm focused on defense as a libero at Waynesburg University before graduating in 2010.
Now Rachell Storm-Baker after marrying high school sweetheart Keith Baker, the South Range High girls volleyball coach is passing on a slice of both the regional experience and the desire for defense to her girls as the Raiders prepare for the Div. III regional semifinals against Orrville tonight at Barberton High.
“Because I’d been there [regionals] as a player a couple times, I wanted to go back as a coach,” said the 23-year-old Storm-Baker, who guided South Range to its first district volleyball championship in school history.
Her Crestview background was complemented by her play at Waynesburg, where she was a three-year starter. Storm was ranked fourth in the country in digs per game in the NAIA.
“That was my third — and last — year because I graduated after my junior year,” she said.
After playing outside hitter in high school, the 5-5 Storm focused on defense in college.
“That’s the part of the game I love,” the second-year coach said. “South Range has good hitters but it also relies on defense. We have very strong hitters, but our defense keeps us going. We’re very aggressive and our girls go after every ball.”
Hired as a 22-year-old in May, 2011 — a month after she married Baker, a 2003 Crestview graduate — Storm-Baker’s first task was to acquaint herself with the girls.
“As a player and coach, my goal is to win,” she said. “Last year, I taught the girls what they needed to know to win. This year, they knew what I expected and they knew what it would take to play and I held them to a high standard. I know what they’re capable of and I showed them what they’re capable of.”
South Range went from a 6-17 record last year to 18-7 so far this season.
“That’s even more than a reverse,” said Storm-Baker, “but that comes from work the girls put in last year and it’s paying off this year.
“We’re not the tallest team and not the most experienced, but we have a hard-work mentality. No one’s going to hand anything to us; we have to earn it.”
At any given time, the Raiders could have two freshmen, two sophomores and two juniors on the court, but they also rely on bench talent.
Among a squad of 14, Caitlyn Adams and Brooke Ball are seniors, Stevie Taylor, Ashley Shetter and Rainne Mason are juniors, Madison Juillerat and Jordan Youngs are sophomores and Lynnie Ritter and Emily Moretti are freshmen.
Middle hitters are Adams and Ritter, outside hitters are Shetter and Taylor, Youngs is the libero, the right-side hitter is Mason and the setter is Juillerat. Also playing defense along the back row for Rainne is Moretti.
“A lot of teams have a go-to hitter,” Storm-Baker said of Shetter as the kills leader, “but, lately, we have a lot of hitters who are strong as well in getting kills.
“Ashley gets her kills because our defense gets a bunch of balls out; they depend on each other.”
Shetter leads in kills, Youngs leads in digs and Juillerat leads in assists.
Storm-Baker, whose assistant is Sarah Fishel, doesn’t think butterflies will be a problem.
“Last week was the first time playing in the district finals and we seemed to get by that pretty quick, so my girls adjust,” she said. “This season included a first time for a lot of other things that the girls adjusted to and prevailed in. It’ll [Orrville match] be competitive.”