Experienced team looks to make another title run
After notching 2A academic, zone and state titles last season, the Whittell High girls volleyball squad is fired up to defend their crowns.
“We’re really excited,” senior Erin Silver said. “It’s like the butterfly feeling, a little nervous, but mostly excited because we have a lot to live up to this year.”
Gone from last season are league MVP’s Carlye Johnson and Shannon McGlothlin. Johnson’s precision setting and McGlothlin’s powerful hitting were key components to last year’s title run.
The Warriors are without graduated defensive specialist Joeleene Brinkley as well as senior Kim McGlothlin, who opted to run cross country this season.
“Anytime you lose four players of that caliber, that’s major,” sixth-year coach Dan McLaughlin said. “The beauty is, we have girls ready to step in and assume those roles. I’m returning a lot of players who have experience and they’re now ready to step forward and do their job.”
Of those returning to the mix are two first-team all-leaguers in Jessika Purdy and Ashley Berns. They’ll likely anchor the veteran squad.
Up front, senior Stephanie Evans is expected to fill the setting duties left by Johnson.
“Carlye was the best setter in the state last year,” Mclaughlin said. “But Stephanie is a very experienced, smart and knowledgeable player, so I’m replacing strength with strength.”
On the outside, hitting duties belong to Silver, who was an off-hand hitter last year playing alongside Shannon McGlothlin. This year, she’ll move to her on-hand side.
“Erin’s another very fast player,” McLaughlin said. “She’s a good passer with good hands and she could also set the ball if necessary. Erin brings a lot of skills to the game.”
Securing down the middle of the court is Shelley Zaskoda.
“Shelley makes up for her lack of size with a lot of mobility, a very strong work ethic and intelligence,” McLaughlin said. “She’s extremely athletic and we’re going to be very strong in the middle because of her.”
The Warriors are also looking to Liz Rico to solidify the front line with her effective shot-blocking skills and strong serve.
With their lack of size as a team, McLaughlin has implemented a new “quick strike” offense this year. The system that de-emphasizes going high on the outside. It focuses instead on quicker and lower sets that come out of the back and middle of the court.
“Basically, you set up the whole offense so that the team you’re playing against doesn’t have time to set up a double block,” McLaughlin said. “If you can hit against a single block, you can be successful.”
Success is something the team has become accustomed to lately and something they are determined to achieve this year, but they are aware of the dangers of being overconfident.
“This season is not going to be easy,” McLaughlin said. “There’s a big circle right next to Whittell on everyone’s schedule and they’re pointing to that as a benchmark as to where they’re going to be. What I have to let these girls understand is that you have to work twice as hard the second time because everybody is going to work twice as hard to beat you.”
It seems the girls are buying into their coach’s philosophy.
We’ re really excited,” Silver said. “But we also have a lot of work to do. We can’t go into into it with the attitude that we’re the best.”
Whittell opens their season Tuesday at South Tahoe High.
8/28 at South Tahoe 6 p.m.
9/1 Varsity Tournament (at Incline) TBA
9/4 North Tahoe 6 p.m
9/5 at Dayton 6 p.m.
9/7 Varsity Tournament (at Lovelock) TBA
9/8 Varsity Tournament (at Lovelock) TBA
9/12 Virginia City 6 p.m.
9/15 Lovelock 12 p.m.
9/25 at Fernley 6 p.m.
9/27 Incline 6 p.m.
9/29 Dayton 12 p.m.
10/2 at Virginia City 6 p.m.
10/5 Fernley 6 p.m.
10/6 at Hawthorne 1 p.m.
10/9 at North Tahoe 6 p.m.
10/12 at Tonopah 4 p.m.
10/17 Hawthorne 4:30 p.m.
10/19 at Lovelock 4:30 p.m.
10/23 at Incline 6 p.m.
10/25 Tonopah 4:30 p.m.
Coach: Dan McLaughlin, sixth year
Returning players: 6
Opener: Aug. 28 at South Tahoe
Quote: “They believe they have what it takes to repeat.” – Coach Dan McLaughlin
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“Let Them Play,” rallies are taking place across California with a mission to bring back high school and youth sports.