WILLIAMSTOWN -- What better way for a senior who meant everything to her team to close out Senior Night than with the serve?
Mount Greylock's Michala Dean did just that on Thursday evening, recording her game-high sixth ace to bring the Mounties within a point of a three-set sweep of Monument Mountain. She served the only match point seconds later.
The ace simply solidified her all-around game that she's displayed for the past three years. It's just more prevalent now that she's been moved from the limiting setting position.
"It was real easy because I play club and I'm all-around player," she said of the transition out of setter. "I've played every position before this year. It was smooth and whatever I can do to help my team, I'll do it."
Her main role since she was 10 years old has been setting. She played everywhere on the floor, but the one position she always seemed to return to was setting. Her father, and Greylock's assistant coach, Eric Dean, has seen how that's impacted her play.
"So setting all that time, her floor presence, she reads the floor," he said. "She reads things before they happen.
"She sees the holes, she sees the opening and she'll see them before she sets them. So if she sees something, she'll put the ball to whoever has the best chance to score at the time."
That was her role for her first two seasons at Greylock after her family moved back to Massachusetts. Her sister,
So it stood to reason setting would be her job in her senior season. That's how Greylock began the season. But coach Phil Paul and the rest of the Mounties saw that was not the recipe for success in 2012.
Greylock graduated eight seniors, including Chelsea, and Michala was the lone returning starter. That meant Greylock's side of the floor was full of inexperience. Six games into the season, the Mounties were a woeful 1-5. While expectations weren't high coming into the season, a 1-5 start was unacceptable for a program that has grown accustomed to playing in the postseason.
Paul moved Michala from full-time setter. Now she had two roles on the floor. When she was at the net, she was to hit, hit and hit. Turns out she's a natural. Before Thursday's match she was ranked third in the nation in hitting percentage on maxpreps.com.
When the rotation carried her to the back row, she now needed to be a solid passer, which she also proved came naturally.
"Best player in the county, bar none. That's all I can say," Paul said. "She can set well, she's a great setter, she's a very good hitter, but her defense in back as you saw evidence from some digs [Thursday], she can play the whole floor. I think the best part of her game is her overall game. She does it all well.
"Her overall game, I think, is the best in the county."
Equally important to the Mounties in a rebuilding year was Michala's leadership on the floor. Her sport IQ instantly commanded the respect and attention of the rest of the team.
Fellow captain Brianna Jones was grateful to have her for support.
"I don't think it would have been the same team like if I had been the only captain," she said.
That is the ultimate compliment considering this is her first real experience in a leadership role on the volleyball court. It used to be her sister's role, but since her playing role was changing, why not make it a total overhaul?
"I think I had to make myself be more supportive and more ... just be there for everybody, not get down on myself," she said. "I had to keep myself up and just be there for everybody else and help them through it."
To reach Josh Colligan, email
On Twitter: @NAT_DigitalJosh