DIG THIS! Northville’s dynamic liberos are hitters’ worst nightmares

 DIG THIS! Northville’s dynamic liberos are hitters’ worst nightmares

Northville senior liberos Greta McKee (left) and Ashlee Gnau have made it a habit of demoralizing even the most-accomplished hitters over the years.

Northville senior volleyball players Greta McKee and Ashlee Gnau are heart-breakers for opposing hitters.

Time after time over the past few years, just when it appears a blazing kill is about to dent the Mustangs’ side of the court like a meteor crashing into the desert, McKee and Gnau arrive out of nowhere — often in dramatic, diving fashion — separating the ball from the ground with outstretched forearms.

Their digs crush opponents’ dreams and spark hope (and points) for the Mustangs, who advanced to the Division 1 championship match in 2022.

They do what the libero position was designed to do — stop foes from accumulating points while setting the table for their own team’s offense.

Selfless position

“It’s a tough, gritty position, but that’s why I love it,” said McKee, who will play Division 1 volleyball for Wright State University beginning in the fall of 2024. “You have to be OK with doing the tough stuff a lot of times. It’s easy to get down on yourself, but being surrounded by great teammates helps me stay positive.”

Ashlee Gnau passes a ball at a recent practice as Greta McKee looks on
Ashlee Gnau passes a ball at a recent practice as Greta McKee looks on

Playing a defensive-focused position doesn’t always result in huge statistical outcomes, which is fine with Gnau and McKee.

“It’s fun because we get to control the first ball,” said Gnau, who earned an athletic scholarship to play for Syracuse University in the fall of 2024. “It’s a mentally challenging position, but at the same time I love diving all around, keeping points alive.”

Northville Head Coach Sarah Lindstrom said she feels blessed to be able to have two Division 1 college liberos on her roster, saying, “I can’t think of many high school coaches who can say that.

“Along with being great players and great athletes, Greta and Ashlee are great people,” Lindstrom said. “They’re two of the nicest kids you’d ever want to meet; nice, but very competitive at the same time.

‘They love what they do’

“They come from great families and nobody outworks them in the gym. They love what they do and it shows.”

Greta McKee passes the ball at a recent practice
Greta McKee passes the ball at a recent practice

McKee and Gnau have earned the highest respect from their teammates, Lindstrom added.

“You ask any girl on our team and they would tell you, ‘I want those two next to me on the court and in life, as a friend,” she said.

Gnau’s volleyball journey kicked off in elementary school. She started excelling in club volleyball when she was 10 and has never looked back.

Playing together on the same club team when they were 13, the defensive catalysts led their squad to a third-place finish in a national tournament in Orlando.

Making memories

McKee has nothing but fond memories of her youth volleyball career.

“One thing I remember vividly is a coach telling me when I was young: ‘I’m going to make you a great libero’,” she said.

Once the pair arrived at Northville High School, they embraced the program’s lofty expectations.

“Our motto our sophomore year was BCOB: Battle Creek or Bust,” McKee recounted. “We got so close, making it to the quarterfinals (the semis and finals are held in Battle Creek). Making it to Battle Creek last year was magical; it was so much fun.”

They love the Mustang culture

Both players said they feel fortunate to attend NHS, which was recently recognized as one of the top 10 high schools in the state.

“The teachers are so involved and supportive,” Gnau said. “And every academic resource a student could want is available at our school.”

McKee nearly chose a different athletic path — but the adrenaline rush volleyball provided won her over.

“I played pretty high-level soccer when I was young, but it was a little too slow for me,” she said. “I love how with volleyball every player can touch the ball on any given point. I love the competitiveness of volleyball, too — both in high school and club.”

Ed Wright can be reached at 734-664-4657 or edwright@socialhousenews.com.

Ed Wright

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