A little team bonding
In years past, Grand Junction High School volleyball sometimes appeared as a class struggle, upperclassmen having trouble incorporating younger players into the varsity program.
The Tigers decided to change that over the summer.
“We did team bonding outside of practice,” senior Jordan Doughty said.
Organized raft trips and visits to the bowling alley all helped the team develop into a more cohesive unit.
The goal is that the Tigers can carry that unity onto the court this fall to produce a few more victories and, hopefully, a chance at a postseason berth.
“I think that’s the change this year,” said Doughty, a starter on last year’s team that went 0-10 in the Southwestern League.
The players had better be ready to welcome whoever is on the floor because second-year coach Lynette Robinson isn’t afraid to shake up the lineup.
Lauren Gadeken joins Doughty as a senior with starting experience.
Robinson didn’t hesitate to go the youth route last year, and Kricket Adleman and Jamie Derrieux both got starting time as freshmen.
Junior Capri Rino and seniors Tanya Lauridsen and McKenzie Binder also got varsity time last season, which should give Robinson a solid core of experienced players.
Robinson put a lot of emphasis on serving during the preseason.
“We know that was one of our defects last year,” Doughty said.
Robinson has put the players on the service line in game simulations during the early portion of practice with the intent of improving their service percentage.
The Warriors have the most experienced returning lineup.
Senior middle hitter Amy Kame begins her fourth season in the starting lineup.
Another senior, setter Haleigh Higgins, who has moved from outside hitter, is in her third, as is junior middle hitter Ashley Wells.
Opposite hitter Maddi Vana, defensive specialist Alyce Albright, both seniors, and junior Kristina Lindsey also got into the varsity rotation last season.
The Warriors lost their final game in last year’s Class 5A district tournament game 15-13.
“We want to get past districts,” coach Beth Nelson said of one of her team’s goals.
They’d like to improve their chances by playing host to a district tournament. That would undoubtedly take a Southwestern League title in order to earn, another item on
Central’s goals list.
That, said Nelson, will be an uphill battle.
“There’s no easy (league) win,” she said. “It’s a challenge, which is great.”
Six seniors graduated from last season’s 12-8 team, which qualified for district play.
Senior Katie Lewis is making the switch from outside hitter to the middle. Junior Camille Kovach is also a force on the inside but can play any position.
That’s indicative of this year’s team, said coach Amelia Conner.
“I have such versatile hitters it’s amazing,” she said.
That should give Conner a chance to vary her offense and force opposing teams to adjust.
Junior libero Janine Kirtland steps into a starting role. Conner is also excited about the prospects of two junior setters, Angie Archuleta and Vanessa Bodie.
After a year away from the volleyball court, senior Sarah Hensley returns as either a middle or outside hitter.
Look for good things from sophomore hitter Victoria Pua.
Five players with varsity experience return to coach Wendy MacAskill’s lineup.
Morgan Reynolds and Mackenzie Clark comprise the team’s senior class. Both started last year, Reynolds as an outside/middle hitter and Clark as a libero. Jenny Thibodeau started at outside hitter as a freshman last year.
Junior Danette Whittington and sophomore Audrey Steinkirchner will share the setting duties.
The Bulldogs open their season with a Western Slope League game against Delta before MacAskill gets a chance to experiment with her lineup in a five-game tournament at Mesa Ridge in Colorado Springs next weekend.