Prep sports off and running as practices begin across Grand Valley

Those feelings of excitement and anticipation never go away for Beth Nelson.

The Central High School volleyball coach, in her sixth year as head coach and 11th year with the program, still greets each season with enthusiasm.

“I just kind of get excited and ready,” Nelson said Monday with a smile. “I always do, even before every game. It’s like I’m still playing. I don’t know if it’s jitters, but once the season starts, it’s like, ‘All right, we’re here.’ “

Monday marked the dawn of a new season for Nelson and her Warriors, who, like the rest of the valley high schools and their sports teams, held their first official practices of the fall season. Only boys golf got off to an earlier start, with tournaments teeing off last week.

Practices couldn’t have started soon enough for Central volleyball senior Demi Ruder.

“I’m ready,” she said. “I just want to get out there.”

Over at Grand Junction High School, boys soccer players met for a pair of Monday practices — a morning session heavy on conditioning and an afternoon gathering that featured touch work. It didn’t take coach Stephen Latta long to discern who’s been putting in training time during the summer and who hasn’t.

“There’s an element of nervousness to it,” said the third-year head coach, who put his players through a two-mile training run early Monday morning.

“They don’t know if they’ve prepared well enough for it. I try to build their confidence. I tell them not to stress so much, that their hard work will show. And that you have to be honest with yourself if you didn’t put the time in.”

Like Ruder over at Central, Grand Junction senior Andrew Murdock is thrilled to be back in action, even after the two-mile fitness test, which challenged players to complete the jaunt in 13 minutes, 30 seconds.

“I always just love the high school season,” he said. “It’s just good to be out there.”

Both Central volleyball and Grand Junction boys soccer enter 2011 with reason for optimism.

The Warriors pieced together a 15-6 campaign on the court last fall, while the Tigers were playoff qualifiers and finished up with an 8-6-1 record on the pitch.

Both programs feel they’re tooled for similar efforts this fall.

“We’ve had winning records every single year I’ve been here,” Murdock said. “I don’t expect much different this year.”

Ruder hopes a cohesive Central volleyball squad translates to a winning season.

“I’m excited,” she said. “The team is really close this year. We’ve bonded closer.”

As seniors, Ruder and teammate Whitney Schaneman are among those leading the charge in the chemistry department.

“Our coach calls it gym culture,” Ruder said.

“It’s just talking to each other and being supportive,” Schaneman added. “We’re just bonding as a team. In drills, we’re making sure everybody is getting into it and talking.”

Schaneman and Ruder will do their best to make sure that happens.

“It’s kind of nerve-wracking this year, but I’m excited,” Schaneman said, admitting she’s a little nervous to step into the role of a senior leader. “I think it’ll be really good.”

And so does Nelson.

“I’m pleased with where we’re going,” she said. “We’ve been very successful the last two seasons, especially. We’ve got good kids doing good things. We’ve been competitive in league every year. This year, we’re pretty young, but we’re young with energy. The kids want to play. They’re excited.”

Just like their coach.


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