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Emily Bowyer named Peru Tribune Player of the Year

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Emily Bowyer (C, 10) came into the 2018 season as one of three Maconaquah players returning from the 2017 squad, helping turn around a 13-20 team into a 23-13 squad that played for a TRC and sectional title in the closing weeks of the season. Bowyer, who led the conference in kills (432) and was fourth in digs (536), made strides on both lines throughout the year, carried the offensive load in key moments throughout the campaign and earned the title of Peru Tribune Player of the year as a result.

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

When the 2017 volleyball season ended for Maconaquah, there were few guarantees of what the 2018 season held for the squad.

Seven seniors graduated from the team and of those returning, only three players saw significant playing time during the season.

With a host of freshmen coming in and sophomores that needed to be integrated by returning head coach Jessica Metcalf, a lot was expected of Emily Bowyer.

The junior answered the call, leading the TRC in kills with 432 while also improving her backline play, recording 536 digs, fourth best in the conference, adding in 470 receptions, 31 aces, 19 blocks and 17 assists.

Bowyer helped turn a 13-20 team around into a 23-13 squad, one that finished runner-up in the Western Sectional and the TRC title race and, as a result, earned the nod as the Peru Tribune Player of the Year for volleyball.

With a new coach in Keeana Walton and knowing several seniors were not going to be around the following year, Bowyer said she and the team had to approach her sophomore season in a different way.

“I feel like it made me build on my leadership as a player,” Bowyer said about the 2017 campaign. “It also made our team become one because we weren’t relying on a coach to make it all for us.

“I tried to get in the gym as much as possible. I worked on hitting during the offseason, getting to the ball quicker, reading the ball flight and reading where hitters are going when they don’t show it to you.”

Bowyer spent the offseason with Munciana Lycans, starting tournament play by December, going through AAU Nationals in June, while also utilizing the weights program on offer at Maconaquah.

As the 2018 season approached, news came through that Metcalf would return to the team after coaching the incoming freshmen as eighth graders the year before.

Bowyer said the news was well received by the squad, who got the chance to reconnect with Metcalf during the summer.

“I was really happy when coach (Metcalf) came back,” Boyer said. “I’ve always liked her as a coach as she talked to us on a different level and all the girls have a connection with her.”

“The freshmen had the same playstyle because they had Metcalf, just like we had Metcalf, so it was just about the change in the speed of the game. It was going to be a big change for the girls but I felt they could do it.”

With a few additional additions, the squad took shape with Bowyer given more chance to lead the attack according to Metcalf, along with a message about working with her new teammates.

“Emily was going to be a foundational player,” Metcalf said. “When she played as a freshmen, she was on the varsity squad because we had the confidence that she was going to play well.

“Emily is a dynamite player but she had to be patient with the freshmen, something she did a good job with. She can lead but sometimes she loses her cool.

“We had to explain to Emily not everyone has the same intensity, the same passion for the game that she does,” Metcalf added. “She did a great job of gelling with the freshmen, bringing them along this season.”

Tempering expectations wasn’t always easy though Metcalf said giving her more on-court leadership responsibilities paid off.

“(Emily) knew what my expectations were for her, which was to play her best game, but she also needed to encourage,” Metcalf said. “You can’t always jump down someone’s throat and expect they’ll react.

“She’s someone I can tug on the arm and say, ‘You need to do this and make sure Lily (Maple) does that, but do it with a smile.’ She did that, the girls were receptive, they looked up to her and she knew this role was big for her this year.”

The Braves got off to a 16-5 start, including a 6-0 run in conference play, a start the junior didn’t initially expect.

“I was a little surprised, especially since we were a freshmen and sophomore-heavy team,” Bowyer said about the conference results. “We didn’t have a lot of upperclassmen, so we didn’t think it would go as well as it did.”

An 0-4 trip at the Brebeuf Invitational jolted the squad back to reality, though Bowyer said the team learned something valuable from the trip.

“After we went to Brebeuf, which was eye opening, seeing the best of the best is different and the practices were geared toward being more like that,” Bowyer said. “The girls were more focused, everyone took practice more seriously and there wasn’t time to mess around.”

Maconaquah grabbed wins seven and eight in TRC play in the following two matches, setting up a winner-take-all bout with Wabash, one the Apaches stormed away with 3-0.

The situation was a new one for most of the squad and both player and coach said it was an important point for the team’s growth in the long run.

 “It was really about encouragement at that point,” Bowyer pointed out after the loss. “The younger girls hadn’t been in that position before.

“We talked beforehand about the situation, that it was a do-or-die game and you have to put your heart out there. I’m of the belief that you put everything out there, play with your heart and your skill.”

“For the Emily and the seniors, it was a conference game, which meant something to them,” Metcalf added. “For the freshmen, they didn’t know what that experience was going to be like.

“There were nerves all week as we had talked about it all week and the result could be different next year as we have several girls playing club ball this winter.”

The lessons helped the team reach the sectional final the following week and though the team fell short against Northwestern in the final, it was not for a lack of trying as Bowyer recorded 26 kills in the final and 60 during the sectional.

Bowyer finished with 142 kills in conference matches, including a season-high 30 against Northfield, 15 in the conference decider against Wabash and 19 in the 3-2 comeback win over Tippecanoe Valley.

Metcalf was impressed with her ability to lead the line but also with her improvement on the back line.

“Emily is a person where if I need something from her, she’s going to go out and do it,” Metcalf said. “She turned into a very good all-around player, getting touches on balls she maybe wouldn’t have at the start of the season, spotting the ball better on offense and reading the ball better on defense.

“We had some major lineup adjustments throughout the sectional and all of the girls showed growth as a team and individuals. Knowing that Emily is already in the gym trying to make herself better is encouraging and she’ll come back as a better leader next year.”

Bowyer, for her part, said her growth in facets other than play on the court was the biggest gain she made during the season.

“Throughout the season, my skill levels increased, especially on defense,” Bowyer said. “This year was more of a mental game, though.

“It was about leading the girls, not harping on every little thing. In volleyball, I’m passionate about everything, so every point matters and everyone should give all every point.

“The girls picked up on that as the season, so they started to feel that way, which let us grow as a team,” Bowyer added.

As the sole junior on the Maconaquah volleyball team this past season, Bowyer will now bear the full burden of leading the squad in the 2019 season.

It’s a challenge Bowyer is looking forward to.

“I’m looking to be in the gym whenever I can and playing volleyball when I’m not,” Bowyer said. “I’ve been lifting, working on my vertical and am giving 110 percent all the time.

“When I get tired, I have to play harder because that will make me a tougher player. Mentally, I need still to encourage the girls and not get down on others.”

Peru Tribune Miami County Volleyball Team

POY: Emily Bowyer (Maconaquah)

OH: Courtlynn Crowe (Peru)

OH: Maryann Freeman (North Miami)

MH: Olivia Smith (Maconaquah)

S: Averi Miller (Maconaquah)

DS: Cate Wolfe (Peru)

L: Alice Miller (Maconaquah)