By Mike Pilosof
Photo by Adam Shrimplin
Garden City, KS-The Patrick Hiltz era enters year three on Friday afternoon when the Broncbusters open the 2021 fall campaign with two road matches vs. Trinidad State and Casper College. This coming on the heels of the shortest offseason in the history of the program (just over four months since their loss to Hutchinson in the Region VI Tournament).
And a lot has changed since March 30.
For starters, outside hitter Reagan Karlin, the centerpiece of Hiltz’s up-tempo attack and a former Division-I recruit, is no longer with the program. All-conference libero, Victoria Gehret transferred to Wharton Junior College in Texas, and sophomore Angel Sherman departed after graduation. Hiltz also shook up his coaching staff, bringing in former European volleyball star, Chantale Riddle as his lead assistant.
“Our improvement in all areas has been great to watch, and our depth this season I anticipate being one of our strengths,” Hiltz said.
That depth begins with four returners: setter, Remi Vargas, outside hitter, Alli Meng, setter, Emma Sultz, and middle blocker Laren Baldowsky, who is back after an injury sidelined her for the final 13 matches of the spring season.
“This may be one of the hardest working teams that I have ever had the pleasure of coaching,” Hiltz added.
Unlike the abbreviated spring season, one that saw Hiltz’s roster shrivel to just eight healthy players by the time the postseason rolled around, this version of the brown and gold is a full squad. The third-year coach snagged a healthy local recruiting class, which included Garden City High School alum and All-WAC performer, Julie Calzonetti, outside hitter, Rachel Panzer, who guided Great Bend to a 20-11 record and the 5A state tournament as a senior, and McKenna Jagels, a Kansas Honor Scholar, and a multi-sport athlete at Garden City High School. He also brought in Salina Central twins Emily and Miranda Jenkins, plus Ulysses grad K’Adriahna Arellano, who transferred from Seward County.
“As coach, I am excited to have a bench to work with for substitutions,” Hiltz explained.
The international class brings size to the equation, led by 6-1 middle blocker, Hannah Brandt from Oschersleben, Germany, 5-11 Vanja Stefanovic from Belgrade, Serbia, and 5-10 Italian star Giorgia Cappelletti.
“We have a very talented group of freshman that will contribute to this team,” Hiltz said.
And they will be tested right away with four matches in two days beginning on Friday with Trinidad State. After games against Otero and Eastern Wyoming the following day, the Broncbusters travel to Texas for a triangular with Clarendon and Lamar. It’s all part of a 16-match road stretch to begin the season. In fact, Garden City doesn’t play at home until Sept. 11 vs. Friends JV. That’s followed up with a showdown against preseason No. 14 Seward County in Liberal four days later. Their first conference match is at Hutchinson on Sept. 8.