Girls’ volleyball set to succeed in upcoming season

Catherine Conrow

With the addition of only three new players this year, the girls’ varsity volleyball team is composed of experienced teammates that have already developed strong chemistry both on and off the court.

This year the team is hoping that their experience and close friendship will help them win MCALs, which they lost to Branson last year.

“Volleyball is a sport where we need chemistry and connection to be successful on the court, so our coach is encouraging us to spend a lot of time together outside of volleyball as well,” said three year varsity player Elly Lundberg, who recently committed to play beach volleyball at Arizona State University.

Senior Lily Barber prepares to set the ball for her teammate during practice. The team's first game will be on Wednesday Sept. 16
Senior Lily Barber prepares to set the ball for her teammate during practice. The team’s first game will be on Wednesday Sept. 16

Outside hitter McKenzie Cooke explained that having good chemistry on and off the court helps the players trust each other during games and pushes the girls to work harder during practice.  Cooke stressed the importance of healthy competition amongst the girls and that they all have respect for this competitive drive.

“We are all really used to playing with each other, which is really important for the team and is going to make this season even better,” said senior libero Lily Barber, who has started on the varsity team all four years.

Barber, who has committed to play at Cornell, will be one of the team’s strongest players, according to assistant varsity coach Breana Thomas.

The team is composed of six returning seniors and three returning juniors.  Team captains will be seniors Marguerite Spaethling, Lily Barber, and Elly Lundberg.

Senior Amanda Lamar is returning as a middle hitter and Kylie Kvam will again be a right side and outside hitter.

Although the team is composed of many returning players, one major difference this season is that senior Elly Lundberg will be playing all six positions instead of just middle hitter.

Head coach Katie Pease wanted Lundberg to play in the back row this season because she played a lot of beach volleyball over the summer, which helped her further develop her passing skills .

While many of the girls have played beach volleyball, Lundberg and junior Mari Molina are the only two players on the team who have been playing beach volleyball competitively and will continue to do so at Arizona State University and Stetson University, respectively.

Molina, who has played on the varsity team for the past two years, is returning as the team’s center.

“She is going to be an amazing defensive weapon as well as set the tempo of the team with her great decision making and location on the court,” Pease said.

For the most part, practices will be run the same way as in years past, but this year they will be longer, according to Lundberg.

“We are really focusing on staying competitive during practice and making quality reps every time we are doing a drill,” Pease said.

The girls are also trying to focus less on which teams they will be competing against and instead will put all their attention on improving their skills.

“In the past few seasons we focused too much on who we are playing during practice, especially when it came to certain teams, such as Branson,” Barber said.

The team has also started to work with a new conditioning trainer twice a week to help the girls with specific exercises that will be helpful for volleyball.

“We used to just run the mile which doesn’t actually help any volleyball skills but now we are going to work on vertical training, speed, and quick intervals, all of which actually apply to volleyball,” Barber said.

According to both Pease and Thomas, the junior varsity and freshman teams also have a lot of potential and depth.

“I have been here for 18 years and from top to bottom, freshman player to varsity player, this year rivals any of our other top years,” Pease said.

Because the varsity team is composed of six seniors, it is really important for the older players to train the younger players to take over their positions next year, according to Lundberg.

“The biggest difference this year is that the JV team is completely filled with kids that could potentially make varsity, there isn’t anyone there that couldn’t find a spot on varsity next year,” said Thomas, who coaches the junior varsity team.

“Our program is really fortunate that we got a really big, really good freshman class, which provided us with the opportunity to make the whole program strong,” Thomas said.

According to Thomas, the top junior varsity players will be freshmen Ella Spaethling and Brittney Klein.

“Since we made the team where every kid can get a shot at playing varsity, there’s a lot of kids to watch and I definitely would count on the freshman bringing their A game,” Thomas said.

The girls will host their first league game of the season on Wednesday, Sept. 16 at 6 p.m. against San Marin High School.