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Prep Athlete of the Week: RTR's Wichern helping Knights to surprising start

September 15, 2012
By Alex Oey ( , Marshall Independent

Making an impact on the volleyball court can happen a variety of ways.

For Russell-Tyler-Ruthton outside hitter Janel Wichern, it's an all-around pursuit.

"The way she is on the court, you can tell that she has volleyball smarts and she's athletic," said Knights head coach TJ Williams. "She never gives up, always goes, is always there for the rest of the team and encourages them."

The sophomore played a key role in RTR's win over tenth-ranked Central Minnesota Christian in straight setson Tuesday, recording a team-high 10 kills to go with a pair of blocks.

This season, Wichern has tallied 50 kills, 16 ace blocks, 54 digs and seven ace serves.

Her solid all-around performance hasn't been lost on the coaching staff.

"She has volleyball smarts. It's like she can read things and react well to what's going on on the court," Williams said. "She's all over the court. She's probably one of the best diggers we have also."

Coming into the season, Wichern had one thing on her mind - play well for the team.

"My thoughts were to have another great year and support our team," Wichern said. "I was looking forward to this year because I know our team is better. I was really loking forward to beating teams we didn't beat last year."

The Knights started their 2011 season with 11 straight losses. This year, RTR is off to a much better start at 5-6.

Wichern has been around volleyball for much of her life. She watched her sister, Kayla, play when she was younger and has been part of the Junior Olympic program since she was in the fourth grade.

A positive aspect that Williams sees is her willingness to learn.

"She listens, she's willing to learn all the time," Williams said. "It's nice that she has the know-how about volleyball, but she's always willing to learn from the coaching staff."

Williams has seen a change in her hitting game from last year, with the adjustment from straight power to changing things up.

"She's learned that she has to change things up during the game, that she can't just swing away or always take cross," Williams said. "Last year, a lot of it was power through. This year she's realized that it doesn't always work and you have to change up your hitting to get around them being able to stop you."

Wichern says that her team has helped her make adjustments and she tries to return the favor.

"I listen to the team on the court and they tell me where to aim for and places that are open," Wichern said. "When our other hitters are going, I help them by telling them how many blockers are up and where there are openings."

As a hitter, Wichern has stepped into more of a leadership role on the court, and acordding to Williams, her teammates have responded well.

"She's one of those players that, if you need someone to build them up or a go-to person, she's always willing to take that role and put the team on her back," Williams said. "They are alright with that because they understand that as a team you have to do that once in a while. If that's what we need to do to get this done, let's do it. Let her take control of the game."



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