Grand Junction seniors ready for volleyball season

Grand Junction senior Capri Rino practices her setting technique during a drill Tuesday at Grand Junction High School. Rino is one three seniors on the Tigers’ squad, which is looking for a turnaround under new coach Leslie Vines.



New Grand Junction volleyball coach Leslie Vines is excited about this season for the Tigers.



QUICKREAD

Things to watch in Western Slope prep volleyball

• Central must replace talented setter Haleigh Higgins along with all-SWL players Amy Kame and Maddi Vana

• Palisade has plenty of talent at the net with 6-foot-2 Audrey Steinkirchner and 5-9 senior Chelsea Wells

• Montrose showcases a smaller lineup, led by outside hitter Brittany Berry, setter Kyla Kille and libero Emma Cooling, all returning starters

• Delta is out to improve on last season’s 3-16 record under second-year coach Renee St. Jean, the Panthers are led by Jenni Jones in the middle

• Hotchkiss, which went 11-4 last season in the Class 3A WSL, has a new head coach, Jamie Hudson



The Grand Junction High School volleyball team is desperate to win this season.

Specifically, the three seniors really want to taste victory.

Capri Rino, Michelle Pewters and Hannah Kimmel have seen the Tigers go a combined 16-40, 2-28 in the Southwestern League the past three years.

“It’s been frustrating,” Rino said. “We are trying to get better to win as many games as possible, especially in the league.”

This is where new head coach Leslie Vines comes in, hoping to turn the program around.

“They are so into volleyball and so excited about it,” Vines said. “They want to succeed and there are some talented girls in there, they just need someone to take them there.”

Vines is the third coach in four years at Grand Junction. She spent one season coaching Class 1A DeBeque in 2004 before taking the past few years off from volleyball when she lived in Michigan.

“Coming from a 1A school, I only had seven girls and we made it all the way to the state tournament,” Vines said. “I can only imagine with this many girls what kind of season we can have if we work together.”

Vines has talent to work with, including a returning libero in Rino, who set the state and school record for digs in a match last season with 45. Rino said she liked playing for former coach Lynette Robinson, but embraces the change with Vines.

“Either way I’m going to try my best,” Rino said. “If it goes the way (Vines) says it will, we’ll be a lot stronger.”

Grand Junction, which opens the season this weekend in the Glenwood Springs Invitational, isn’t the only District 51 volleyball team dealing with change at the top. Fruita Monument is turning to new coach Bob Richardson to rebound from a disappointing 2009 season.

Richardson inherits five returning starters, including libero Janine Kirtland, setter Angie Archuleta and outside hitter Keila Utu, all seniors.

“I think we are ready, there are some things we have to tinker with, but they are anxious to get going on something that counts,” Richardson said. “We’ve done a lot of things and we’ve gotten better for this season.”

Richardson spent the previous four years getting to know the SWL as an assistant at Grand Junction.

Senior captain Camille Kovach said the Wildcats are excited about the coaching change.

“I think it shakes things up in a good way,” Kovach said. “He’ll help us (improve) our program after we didn’t have a great season last year.”

Fruita Monument, which plays at the Regis Invitational this weekend, hasn’t struggled quite as much as the Tigers, but the Wildcats have had losing records two of the past three years.

“It’s been mediocre, we haven’t had great seasons,” Kovach said. “We want to end it on a high note, and I want to win league this year.”

Richardson doesn’t plan to waste any time. The first-year coach said it’s not a big stretch to shoot for the SWL title this season.

“I expect us to be competitive in the conference,” Richardson said. “I’m not saying we’ll win every game, but I expect to compete with everyone.”


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