Prep volleyball: Worthington enters season with 'a whole new look'
WORTHINGTON — The 2013 version of the Worthington Trojans was very senior-heavy, but that doesn’t mean 2014 will be a “rebuilding year.”
This year’s Trojan squad features just four returning letterwinners, but even they will experience some change this season as head coach Jessica Hogan said her team will take on a “whole new look.”
“Even our returning players will take on a whole new role,” Hogan said. “The young players are competing hard in practice every day.”
The players with the most varsity experience on this year’s squad are outside hitter Allie Bruns and setter Betsy Thompson. Bruns, a junior, is a three-year starter for the Trojans while Thompson comes back to lead the offense. Whitney Jensen will hold down the middle hitter position and comes back as a letterwinner. They’re joined by Allison Kremer, who will be a vital part of the defense as the squad’s libero.
With Bruns and Jensen part of the equation, Worthington looks to be a force at the net this season. Hogan lists her team’s height as one of its biggest assets entering the season. She also said the team as a whole has bought into the “little things” and is showing a strong work ethic with plenty of hustle in practice
In order to fully utilitze their strengths, Hogan said the Trojans have spent a lot of time early on working on ball control.
“We tell them that no ball is done until they’ve given their best effort,” Hogan said. “They have to go get everything. We want them to train their bodies to never give up on a play.”
Of course, with only four players who got significant playing time on last year’s 12-13-3 coming back, there are bound to be some growing pains. Hogan admitted that inexperience playing together could result in some mistakes early in the season, but she doesn’t expect any issues to persist as the season wears on.
“When they’ve made mistakes, we’ve only told them once time and they’ve gotten it fixed,” she said. “They catch on quick. That’s a credit to their natural athletic ability combined with effort.”
Any early-season bumps in the road will have to be smoothed out in a hurry if the Trojans hope to make 2014 a successful season. As is typically the case, the Southwest Conference is loaded with top-tier competition, including three-time defending Class AA state champion Marshall and perennial contenders Jackson County Central, Luverne and Pipestone Area.
On top of that, Hogan said the Trojans’ nonconference schedule is “tougher than ever.” Worthington goes outside of its league for matches with the likes of Southwest Minnesota Christian, Heron-Lake Okabena and Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, all of which have boasted strong volleyball teams in recent history.
“We know to compete we’re going to have to come out of the gate ready to play our best volleyball every night,” Hogan said. “Our schedule is definitely going to test us, but it’s going to make us better.”
The goal with any team at the outset of the season, of course, is to be among the last team’s standing at the end of the season. That fact is true whether the discussion is about conference, section or state competition.
In order to be in a position to compete for titles in all three tiers, Hogan said her team needs to raise its level of intensity during practice. Not only does it have to bring the level up, but it needs to maintain that higher standard throughout the season. She added that it also has to continue doing the little things right and must always think as a team.
“All of our conference games are intense,” Hogan said. “Last year I thought we were a team that was right on the brink. I really think if we’re able to continue improving we can compete with anybody.”