by Joey Crandall, firstname.lastname@example.org
While the Douglas High School volleyball team has closed each of the last two seasons in strong fashion, the Tigers have struggled out of the gates both years.
In each case, a lack of experience, a lack of depth and defensive struggles have contributed to the slow starts.
But it’s those exact three elements that Douglas coach Suzi Townsell points toward as the team’s strong suits heading into this season.
“Defense and depth, there’s no question about it,” Townsell said. “Those are our big advantages this year. It’s a real luxury to know whoever you put out there will give you the same effort. There isn’t a dropoff.
“The defense so far has been amazing. That’s how we’re going to win matches. It’s going to be about continuously getting the ball back to the other team and putting the pressure on them.”
And don’t forget the experience. Seven of the 15 players on the roster are seniors and five players are entering their third season at the varsity level.
Might as well add flexibility to the mix as well.
“So many of these girls can play multiple positions,” Townsell said. “It gives us a lot of options and a lot of different looks we can throw out there. It’s been a while since I’ve had these kinds of options.”
The Tigers boast eight years of varsity experience to anchor the front line attack. Junior Ariah Barth and senior Kristina Barnum will man the wings on the outside while senior Katie McCullough will hold down the middle.
“Katie will be our go-to a lot this season,”: Townsell said. “She’s a key piece in the middle.”
Carmen Shaw and Jessa Gansberg will add depth on the front line and Mandy Weaver and Sydne Huck will compete for time on the right side.
Senior Shelby Van Winkle returns for her third varsity season and will be the primary starter at setter.
Sophomores Bailey Gansberg and Nikki Hamada will both see time there as well, though, and Townsell said she is toying with the idea of running multiple setters on the floor at once.
“Nikki can jump set a whole lot, which speeds the offense up,” Townsell said. “Shelby can switch over to the front row, because she is a good hitter. I like that setup because it really gives us a lot of options to throw at the other team and we can go pretty fast.
“Really Nikki, Shelby or Bailey could play front row. They’re all great hitters and great athletes. They can get up there and block.”
That leaves five roster spots filled by primarily defensive-minded players.
Senior Madeline Strauss, also entering her third varsity season, will be the team’s libero.
Senior Sage Pintler, senior Hailee Porras and junior Shay Worley will rotate in as defensive specialists and sophomore Maddy Lowe enters the year as the program’s libero of the future.
“Madeline Strauss won that spot,” Townsell said. “She just has a maturity about her and understands what’s going on out there. Maddy Lowe, she’s just a great athlete. She’ll be in contention for a starting spot down the road.”
Douglas opened up the season by going 6-2 at a tournament in Las Vegas over the weekend.