April 7, 2021 – By NJP

The typical attributes of the really great high school volleyball teams is having a really dominant middle who can control the game on both sides whether offense or defense. We watched Anna Morris at Immaculate Heart last season bring such a big presence to every game and the results that unfolded. Michaela Ryan brings that same presence to the Cherokee Chiefs.

The 6′ middle blocker has been an integral part of the Chiefs success this season. Her senior leadership, positive spirit, and pure athleticism are all hallmarks. She will be continuing her volleyball career at the collegiate level at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.

And you can certainly see why they wanted to recruit the senior. Michaela brings so much versatility to the middle role. She has excellent timing, a solid swing on the attack, and superlative blocking abilities aided by her height and wingspan coupled with soft hands that direct her blocks. She is also effective on the service line.

Statistically, Michaela has put up solid numbers. Her stats continue to improve every year since starting at varsity as a sophomore. At better than 2.5 kills/set, she is making a solid impact. She has already put down 14 blocks in the short season as well as 16 aces.

But it’s the stuff that you can’t measure with statistics that gives her so much upside. She has an amazing spirit that trickles down to every one of her teammates. She understands the importance of the mental side of the game and plans to further her career in Psychology. All the stuff that makes a great leader, on and off the court.

The Chiefs have many other talented players on the roster as well. Katie Montenero has been the perfect quarterback for this squad at setter already posting 161 assists over 9 matches. Freshman outside Taylor Bartrum has been an amazing first year contributor with 45 kills and 61 digs. Seniors Gabriella Waldman and Krista Blassman have been solid on the attack, with Gabrielle leading the team in kills. And the back row is secure with junior Justine Harvey and senior Becca Carr on the baseline. Lots of talent on the Chiefs so we will see where it will lead them as the season winds down.

Cherokee will be focusing on making a big splash in the sectionals. South Section 4 is one of the toughest in the state with 4 top 20 teams including Southern, Williamstown, undefeated WWPS, and many other top quality teams. They have the capabilities to beat any team on a given day as evidenced by their win over Southern. And opponents will have a tall order to get their attacks past a brilliant middle presence in Michaela.

Here is our interview with Ms. Ryan…

Seniors Krista Blassman and Michaela Ryan

Tell us a bit about yourself, Michaela?
I am currently a senior at Cherokee High School and I am a part of the 2021 graduating class. I live in Marlton, New Jersey with my parents and two younger siblings, but I also have many other family members that live in my town as well.

How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially?
I’ve been playing volleyball for about five years now. In eighth grade, I actually decided to stop playing soccer and try out volleyball. I played soccer for most of my life so jumping into a new sport was definitely hard at first, especially because I was one of the more inexperienced players there. However, I absolutely fell in love with the sport and knew it was definitely the sport for me, but didn’t realize it would become such a passion of mine.

What are your metrics/details? Height, vertical, position, club team, etc. What’s your favorite position to play?
I am 6’0 and I am a middle hitter. I currently play for Princeton Volleyball Club and my favorite position to play is definitely middle. I love being right in the center and I especially love being able to see the entire court on the other side of the net. Also defending as a middle is one of my favorite things to do, blocking is the best.

Tell us about your Cherokee teammates. Who do you expect to be this year’s standout and up and coming players?
Without a doubt, this year’s team definitely has the strongest bond. We all support each other entirely and are each other’s biggest cheerleaders. In my opinion, this team almost feels like my second family and I enjoy every second I’m playing with them. I have to give credit where credit is due, so I think that our setter, Katie Montenero, is definitely one of our most standout players. This is the first year of my whole Cherokee volleyball experience that we have run a 5-1, but Katie definitely knows how to run the court and make sure everyone is incorporated. She definitely is a big part of pulling the team together. I feel that we have strong players all around whether that be any of our hitters or any of our backrow players. After this year, a lot of seniors will be graduating but I know that Justine Harvey (L) and Brooke O’Prandy (O) will continue to do big things in the program.

NJP considers you as one of the top players in the state. Tell us about what went into your decision to attend and play collegiate volleyball at Gettysburg College? What is your career path?
I was on the fence for so long about playing volleyball in college and to be honest, I realized I wanted to play in college pretty late into the recruiting process. However, I came across Gettysburg College and decided to reach out to them about playing. I visited the campus and met with the coaches and immediately knew I wanted to attend and play for Gettysburg. The college isn’t super big but the atmosphere is amazing, which is everything I wanted in a school. Volleyball aside, I also learned about the psychology program Gettysburg had to offer, which is what I plan to major in, and knew it was a good decision for me academically as well as athletically. I’m really excited about the next four years of my life!

Cherokee has had an outstanding season thus far losing just two matches to strong teams, a three-set loss to Williamstown and a three-set loss to Shawnee. Tell us about the big win over #2 Southern last week…
Going into the game against Southern, we all knew we were the underdogs. However, we realized that being the underdogs meant that we had nothing to lose, so we went into the game with absolutely no fear. One of my main goals is to maintain energy within my teammates so we all stay hyped up to play, and the game against Southern was our most high energy game of the season, which I think definitely contributed to our big win. Winning the first set felt amazing but losing the second set did put some pressure on the game, but we came out more excited than before and just went absolutely crazy over every point. The game was so insanely close but I just knew in my gut that the game was ours to win. I was actually on the court when it was game point and after Katie Montenero (S) got the final block to end the game, it was the most surreal feeling ever. It still is to be honest. I was just so happy and I could see the excitement from each player, our coaches, and every parent in the stands, which just made the experience that much better. It was definitely such a good feeling beating such a high ranked and undefeated (at the time) team, but it was a better feeling seeing just how much we were capable of as a team.

Always_a_Chief (@Cherokee_HS) | Twitter

Cherokee has broken into the NJP Top 20 this week. What do you think the rest of the year will hold for Cherokee?
I think that this year could definitely be a memorable year for Cherokee. Like I said before, this team is so closely bonded and works so well together that we have the potential to go far. I think our confidence definitely boosted after beating Southern and the way we played in that game was just a glimpse of how good this team can be. I
only see big things ahead for us.

Tell us about your experience playing club volleyball at Princeton Volleyball Club (PVC)?
Initially, switching to Princeton Volleyball Club was one of the best decisions I have made in my volleyball career. It provided me with so many opportunities to improve my abilities and I can honestly say that I would not be the player I am without playing for this club. The coaching as well as my teammates push me to be the best player I can be and I’m so grateful to be a part of this club.

Which player this season is the toughest competitor that you faced and why?
I think the toughest competitor I have faced so far was the entire Southern team this year. I knew that Southern was always a strong team, and would still be a strong team this year, so it was definitely a very tough match.

Is there a teacher or coach who really helped you along the way?
I think that both my high school coach as well as my club coach helped me out a lot along the way. My high school coach, Erika McGinley, is one of the best coaches I have ever had. She pushes a player hard because she believes in them more than they believe in themselves, and that type of coaching is why I work so hard in both practices and games. My club coach, Joe Schweitzer, is also another person who has really helped me through my volleyball career. He took me on his team my junior year and it’s been one of the best experiences. He believes that every player has so much potential within them, and that type of coaching has helped me become more confident with my own abilities.

Who is your support group?
I have a huge support group, ranging from family members, to my friends, to my own teammates. I am so grateful for all the support I receive from everyone because it just helps me be the best I can be. Three people really stand out in my support group: my mom, my dad, and my Pop Pop. My mom and dad are hands down my biggest cheerleaders and are always there for me. They care about this sport almost as much as I do. My Pop Pop has just recently been watching me play, but he loves to watch me play. I always get texts from him about a game or even just anything relating to volleyball, and I love that he cares so much about me.

What is your favorite volleyball story?
My favorite volleyball story is probably beating Southern this year, and for a coupe reasons. I don’t remember actually beating Southern whenever I have played against them, so it felt very good to finally do so. Also, just the atmosphere and the energy radiating throughout the gym was such a memorable feeling and it is definitely a
story that I will remember for so long.

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