MARQUETTE - The sponsor of Saturday's Articatz Autumn Invitational has shifted its emphasis from travel team play to volleyball development during the past few years.
Coach Tracy Hruska offers development programs for girls from third to 12th grades, with sessions held at the Baraga Gym in Marquette.
"We had about 48 girls in the fifth- through eighth-grade program last year, and I expect we'll have at least that many this year," Hruska said after refereeing high school teams for about eight hours on Saturday.
She said there were at least two dozen girls in the third- and fourth-grade program last year, and definitely expects to see an increase this year.
The Volley Tots program begins for grades 3-4 in mid-October, while Middle Diggers (grades 5-6) and Junior Spikers (grades 7-8) get going just after the Christmas holidays are over.
The High School program starts after the regular high school volleyball season is over in November and runs until the end of May.
While there still is a club team, it plays a more restricted season than in the past.
"We're allowing more people to get involved with lower costs than you have for a full-fledged travel team season," Hruska said about the Articatz' eighth year in existence.
She lists the program's goals as elite-level execution of basic skills, grooming athletes for future contention for state titles, and preparation for life off the court.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.