Focused on fundamentals: Whittell volleyball gets back to basics with new coach McClendon
The Whittell volleyball team has a new coach this season — and a new focus. The Warriors are learning the fundamentals of the game under first-year head coach Stephanie McClendon, hoping that an emphasis on the basics will lead to success.
“They’re learning technical volleyball, which they didn’t know a lot of,” McClendon said. “They’re responding really well to that, and being disciplined.”
Whittell made its home debut Thursday, Sept. 10, with a sweep of Sierra Lutheran. It wasn’t McClendon’s first time on the Warriors’ court, but this time she was wearing a different colo. The team’s new coach played volleyball across town at South Tahoe High, where she graduated from in 2006.
“For me it’s a blast,” McClendon said. “Coming over here is a great opportunity for me to get back into volleyball, and the girls have responded really well to me.”
The 2015 Warriors return an experienced core of seniors from last year’s team that finished fourth in Div. IV West League and qualified for the regional playoffs. Outside hitter Jordyn Becker, setter Kelsey Kjer, and middle blocker Tatum Libert are Whittell’s senior captains, and all three bring talent and leadership to the team.
“We have a lot of seniors and a lot of girls that want to push themselves and have a really good season,” McClendon said. “This is their last year and they want to make the most out of it. I’m excited to push them.”
Whittell’s ultimate goal is to make it beyond the first round of regionals. The Warriors are planning to get there with fundamental play; early in the season, the team has focused on footwork, defensive discipline, positioning and transitioning from offense to defense.
“We have the potential to run solid offense,” McClendon said. “We just need to continue pick up our pace and what we’re doing on our side — not so much what the opponent is doing.”
In Whittell’s home opener Thursday night, it swept Sierra Lutheran 27-25, 25-17, 25-10. The Warriors trailed the Falcons 18-12 in the first set before reeling off nine straight points and eventually taking the frame — from there, they were in control the rest of the way.
“Their fans and the football players were there, and I could tell they were nervous,” McClendon said. “In the first game they had jitters, but they came back and got better incrementally every game. They focused and came out with the win, and I’m happy with that.”
Whittell returns to action next Saturday, Sept. 19 at Coleville. First serve is scheduled for noon.