Whittell volleyball starts fresh with young team in 2016 season
The Whittell volleyball team doesn’t have experience on its side in the 2016 season. The Warriors are going back to the basics as a result, looking to build with fundamentals and make progress one day at a time.
“We’re starting fresh with our new freshmen, but hopefully our leaders and older girls can lead the way and push those girls so that we can be competitive,” Warriors coach Stephanie McClendon said. “We have a lot of work to do on fundamentals and being cohesive.”
Under the guidance of McClendon and Terri Potter last season, the Warriors finished fifth in Div. IV West League play. That team had six seniors, nearly the amount of non-freshmen on this year’s squad — which makes for a different landscape on the court.
“We’re teaching the mental aspect of how to improve their games and their mental ability to go in there, not be super nervous and just play,” McClendon said. “That’s the quickest way we can improve.”
Three players return from last year’s team — senior Michelle Barnes along with juniors Kaitlyn Kjer and Anna Miller. Whittell’s team captains include Barnes, Miller, sophomore Brianna Johns and a coaches’ selection yet to be made.
Junior Lacey Robinson is the Warriors’ only other upperclassmen this season. The rest of the team’s roster consists of three sophomores and five freshmen.
“We have to narrow that gap,” McClendon said. “We have to push the younger girls and the older girls can’t slack off at all — we’ll see what happens.”
Inexperience coupled with a lack of height has Whittell focusing on serving and defense early on in the season. As much as strategy and technique, a majority of the Warriors are learning how to play at the varsity level.
“We have to just play, have fun and improve every time we get out on the court,” McClendon said. “Whether it’s practice or a game, we have to treat it like it’s important.”
After coming up empty in six matches at the Yerington Invitational on Aug. 26 and 27 and falling to Silver Stage (Silver Springs, Nev.) last Thursday, Sept. 1, Whittell finally broke through for a victory. The Warriors swept Loyalton (Calif.) 25-13, 25-11, 25-9 on Friday, Sept. 2, for a decisive win in their home opener.
Whittell jumped out to big leads over the Grizzlies in each set en route to the win. Aces from Dee and Miller punctuated the second and third sets as the Warriors showed their potential in their first time out on their home court.
“We still need to individually focus on what we’re doing to become better, but we’re taking it one day at a time and focusing on individual improvements to help the team overall,” McClendon said.
Whittell returns to action Friday, Sept. 9, when it opens 1A West League play at Sage Ridge. First serve is scheduled for 5 p.m.