Look to mix of youth and experience to gel as a team
by Stan Cola
After several years of big numbers on the Crested Butte high school volleyball team, coaches Marla Covey and Heather Perry finally have numbers they can work with effectively.
The last couple of years the Titans had as many as 32 players to work with, which made it difficult to get the girls into matches for much needed match experience. This season they have 18 players and while they lost six to graduation, the Titans have three returning starters to help lead the team.
As the Titans worked through the two weeks of preseason, Covey already sees a difference in attitude among her players this year.
“So far the entire team is demonstrating a strong work ethic and a desire to play together as a team,” says Covey. “With the accelerated start to this season and not having the opportunity to have any scrimmages, the team is definitely still working through start-of-season issues such as fitness, timing of hitting, and blocking, but attitudes remain positive.”
The Titans jumped right into the fire in their first match of the season, hitting the road to take on Custer County on Saturday, August 29.
The match in Custer County showed that both teams were struggling with first-game jitters and finding consistency. The Titans struggled with consistency in the first set but showed flashes of solid teamwork as sophomore Corinna Donovan and junior Isabel Young showed solid serving to keep Crested Butte in the set before falling 25-19.
The Titans recovered to win the second set as the team flowed and moved together more consistently. Juniors Emilya Ramsey and Young prowled the net, hunting for opportunities to block the Bobcats. Meanwhile, seniors Ericka Bremer and Raven Bryson worked the back row, continuing to improve their passing and providing the Titans opportunities to run their offense, score some points and take the second set 25-20.
The Titan coaches then changed the lineup again in the third set, looking for more combinations that could bring success. Sophomore Avery Pulley started to seem comfortable in her setter role in her first varsity match and tried to mix up sets to the hitters. Battling hard on most points, the Titans let a few runs by as the Bobcats put them on the defensive, and had to try and play catch-up, ultimately dropping the third set 25-20.
The Titans lost what mojo that had earlier in the match in the fourth set and appeared a bit adrift on the court. The Bobcats took advantage of Titans mistakes to win the fourth set 25-13, and the match.
“We had some solid play and serving which set up the opportunity for our hitters to swing away—then we had to work on getting some of those hits in the court so the Bobcats could make some mistakes,” says Covey. “Also, as coach, I am still looking for some players to set up and fill some holes in the lineup so we can find the lineup that provides us the best opportunity to be successful. We switched up the lineup and made changes to see how the young team would handle change and also find a combination that worked best on many levels.”
The coaching staff did come away with some positives from the opening match as the Titans served almost 87 percent on the day, which is a very solid number for the first match of the season. While there were far too many hitting errors, some solid swings by the hitters showed that the potential is there. When the setter and hitters have more time to adjust to each other, the Titans offense should continue to improve. Defensively, the team had solid blocking and digging and avoiding a few net violations in the future will be an important component of the game to improve.
“There were some tremendous demonstrations of determination to chase down balls, and teamwork in every set,” says Covey. “Some players lost a bit of confidence as the games tightened up but more experience and learning to trust your team should continue to improve.”
Both the JV and varsity teams travel to tournaments this weekend and each team will play three matches. The varsity team travels to Cripple Creek on Saturday, September 5 to square off against South Park, Mountain Valley and Cotopaxi. This experience should prove valuable as the Titans return to conference play immediately after the Labor Day tournaments.