Audrey Cheng was one of just a handful of freshmen last year shouldering the weight of her team’s offense on her tiny fingertips.
At the 5A level, the most talented setters — or at least the statistical leaders in assists — were seniors and juniors. Sitting not too far down that list was Cheng, who took Fairview’s 5-1 offense to heart and flourished.
Despite having played in the 6-2 set most of her life, she embraced the role. Now as a sophomore, Cheng is aiming to be the quarterback on the court once again.
“In past years, I’ve always been a setter and a hitter … so (the 5-1) was quite a big deal,” said Cheng, a BoCoPreps.com all-region selection who finished with 637 assists in 2013. “I was glad for the opportunity.”
It’s hard to believe she was nervous about even making varsity at the beginning of last year. She took charge right from the beginning, however, playing well beyond her years according to teammates.
“She carried this team and was not scared of that at all. She amazed us all,” senior Mari Jewell said.
She added a lot of other elements, too, getting in on some blocks (she stands taller than a lot of setters) and serving tough. In other words, she did a lot to keep herself in the rotation.
“For her as an individual, I just want her to continue at the high level she showed last year,” head coach Brooke Simmons said. “All of our girls have improved so much, and I hope she continues to really run our offense. She’s a smart setter, and we’ll be working on the decision-making in those really quick moments.”
Simmons might deploy the 6-2 here and there, but the flexibility of the team’s offense is something she is excited about. That might free up Cheng in the offense as a hitter, too.
While her teammates are stoked to see her hit, Cheng kind of relishes being that spotlight setter after doing it all season.
“She’s a strong hitter, so getting to showcase that has got to be fun for her too,” said Bailey MacInnis, one of the team’s leading attackers. “It sure is fun for us to watch.”
“The 5-1, you are always the captain, the leader and everyone is looking towards you. A lot of how the game turns out depends on you,” Cheng added. “When you’re running the 6-2, when you’re front row, you go from leader to a different role.
“I liked doing that last year. I liked the 5-1.”
Cheng is just one of a number of outstanding returners this season. Sophomore twins Caroline and Christine Schmiedeler were impact players in the front court last year, and Jewell hovers the back court with great vision. MacInnis tallied 198 kills last year, hitting at a .243 clip.
The experience shared between Cree Lawrence, Alli Williams, Aza Verhoven and Kiki Garthwaite also have the team optimistic of a surge past regionals this year.
“I feel like we know each other so well on and off the court, so I think we’re going to be really strong this year,” Jewell said.
“Our goal is state, and I completely think we can do it,” MacInnis said.
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