PORTAGE | Mariah Wright has always loved the game of volleyball. The Portage senior just didn’t realize how much until she went all-in.
Wright started her high school career as a three-sport athlete, but once Portage coach Brian Zofkie arrived on campus, volleyball became the top priority.
At Zofkie’s urging, Wright started playing club volleyball for Diamond Elite, and the game made much more sense.
“Playing club has helped me become a better player both on and off-the-court,” Wright said. “I’m much more committed to practice now and improving in every aspect of my game. My passing is 100 percent better now from what is used to be.”
Zofkie has preached club volleyball to whoever would listen since he took over the Indians prior to the start of the 2011 season. The former St. Norbert (Wis.) football player believes that playing volleyball year-round is the best way to grow the program.
“It’s hard to compete with the schools like Chesterton, Valparaiso and LaPorte when they are playing club,” Zofkie said. “We need to close that gap. Mariah had never played club before and you can definitely see the difference.”
Focusing solely on volleyball was just the start for Wright. Zofkie recognized Wright’s leadership as a sophomore and moved her from middle to outside hitter, where Wright could play all-around. Entering her third year as an outside hitter, Wright is still looking for ways to improve her game and Zofkie is right there with the answers.
“Coach has us watch film each night and that really helps,” Wright said. “We’ll watch at least 20 minutes from each match and when I make a mistake; I’ll go back and watch the mistake. I’ll figure out what I did wrong and I’ll make the corrections.”
The video breakdown comes from Zofkie’s days as a college football player and it’s another way that the Indians are trying to close the gap with the rest of the Duneland Athletic Conference. Portage made some noise in sectional play last year, knocking out Hobart in the first round before falling 16-14 to Michigan City in the fifth set of the semifinals.
Wright and senior teammate Josi Auksel have made it a goal this year to go deeper in the postseason while hoping to create some headlines that will rival those of their conference rivals.
“We see all the stories in the paper and that’s motivation for us,” Wright said. “That makes us want to fight even harder. I feel like a lot of teams are opening their eyes to us now and that we’ll be ready to go a lot farther this season.”