Buchanan senior – Volleyball
Strefling has served as a captain of Buchanan’s volleyball team all four years of high school as the Bucks have risen to join the state’s elite. Buchanan is ranked No. 3 in Class B this week coming off a championship at the Battle Creek Lakeview Invitational, where the Bucks downed among others reigning Class C champion Bronson, annual Class A power Temperance Bedford and Class B No. 9 Harper Creek – the team that ended Buchanan’s last two seasons at MHSAA Regionals. Strefling earned the Michigan National Guard “Performance of the Week” after totaling 89 kills, eight blocks, 16 aces and 63 digs during Saturday's tournament, the second this season where she was named Most Valuable Player of the event.
The 5-foot-10 outside hitter has 350 kills, 220 digs, 30 blocks and a .520 hitting percentage this season after setting a school single-season kill record with more than 800 a year ago in making the Class B all-state third team. Buchanan is 21-1 after Wednesday’s win over Comstock, and Strefling helped the Bucks break their program record for wins during both the 2014 and then 2015 seasons. The Bucks have lost only 23 matches total during her four years.
Strefling grew up in the gym, thanks in large part to her father Vince Strefling, currently the volleyball coach at Glen Oaks Community College and previously the coach at five high schools including Niles Brandywine, Dowagiac and Coloma. Franki has committed to sign with Eastern Michigan University, where she’ll study to become a nurse practitioner – she carries a 3.57 grade-point average. Strefling also participated in track & field for a season, as a sophomore, competing in the 800, 1,600, pole vault and long jump.
Coach Lisa Holok said: “Since Franki walked into the gym freshman year, I knew she was going to be a special athlete. She has been a dominant leading force for this program for four years and is having a fantastic senior season. Without a doubt, she is one of the best players in the state and she has proved that time and time again. Franki's high level of play dominates opponents with her powerful arm swing and jumping ability; she also has the ability to pick apart a team’s defense with her court awareness. Franki is a really aggressive server and through the years has also brought her defense up to another level. Her overall ball control and knowledge on the court is bar none. Franki makes everyone around her better and raises their games by her intense play and passion for the game. She is a work horse and has spent countless hours in the gym training her whole life for a sport which she loves. We are so proud of the leader that she is on and off the court and the joy of the game and intensity she brings to our practices, our games, to this team and program. She is so deserving of all her success.”
Performance Point: “Saturday was a very long, exhausting day,” Strefling said. “Honestly, with the training we do during practice, I think we’ve gotten a lot more intense during practice. We’re doing more mental strengthening. We’re doing a lot more conditioning. That’s what helped us more. After 12 hours, teams were exhausted, but I think we were more in shape. ... Throughout the whole day, I think I played pretty consistently, and I’m proud of that being it was such a long day.”
Seasoned veteran: “I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is how to be a better leader, connect with my team. How to be more than just teammates; how to become a family. I’ve learned their strengths and weaknesses, how they like to be told what they’re doing wrong. I’ve just learned about them individually, just learned with them. We have seven seniors who have been up (on varsity) for four years now, and that helps a lot.”
Serving notice: "Our community has started to appreciate (our success) more. We’re getting more people at games, and it means more personally that the work we’re putting in is finally getting recognized. On social media, lots of people have started sharing everything. It kinda started last year … usually we’re the small school; nobody pays attention to us. But we’re making a name for ourselves and people are recognizing us. It’s awesome."
Following Dad: "My dad is really everything I’ve become. Ever since I could walk, I’ve been in the gym with his teams. Sometimes I’ll look up in the stands and he’ll be telling me what I’m doing wrong, what I need to fix. It’s a reminder constantly of what I need to be doing – (and) I always love it. When I’m struggling especially, when he’s there cheering it’s such a great feeling, that I’m making him proud."
Strefling sharp: “I think the best part of my game would be my mental stability. We can get down in games, like this weekend we were down 15-2 and came all the way back. Just being mentally strong, against a team that took from us three years now, I told (my teammates) we need to stop. We need to get back in the groove, and don’t worry about the score. Do the basics. Do what we train for.”
- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Every week during the 2016-17 school year, Second Half and the Michigan National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.
The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster.
Previous 2016-17 honorees:
Sept. 8: Noah Jacobs, Corunna cross country – Read
PHOTOS: (Top) Franki Strefling and her Buchanan teammates are ranked No. 3 in Class B this week. (Middle) Strefling watches as a spike falls for a point during a recent match. (Photos courtesy of the South Bend Tribune/Michael Caterina.)