Ready to challenge the best

WORTHINGTON -- Entering her fifth season as head coach of the Worthington Trojans volleyball team, Jen Clark has seen a marked change in the mindset of her teams.

WORTHINGTON -- Entering her fifth season as head coach of the Worthington Trojans volleyball team, Jen Clark has seen a marked change in the mindset of her teams.

Once a team which entered certain matches pessimistically, the Trojans have grown into a more confident bunch, fueled by the belief they can challenge any team, anywhere.

"They have started to really believe in themselves, and believe we can play with a Marshall or a Pipestone Area, or whoever in our conference," Clark said. "They don't go in almost defeated."

The Trojans, however, do enter the 2006 season with a strong group of upperclassmen, looking to build off last year's 16-9-1 record and second-round appearance in the Section 2AAA tournament.

"They're really excited. I have a group of seniors that's really pumped to be here," Clark said. "They really bring that energy, and it rubs off on the rest of the group."


And the excitement is something which emanates from Clark to her players. One glance at her practice and it is clearly evident that, along with working hard, Clark wants her players to enjoy playing volleyball.

And, according to Alex Wetering, Clark does a good job of keeping players from getting down if things don't go well during a match.

"If you get all rustled up during a match, she'll do a good job of calming everybody down and getting (everybody) focused," Wetering said.

The Trojans lose six seniors from last year's team, including Rachel Springman and Kelli Luitjens. In the case of Luitjens, she developed into a strong leader for the team, and her departure certainly leaves a pronounced void to fill.

"She was just a strong leader on both ends," Clark said. "She was a positive influence and was a hard worker. That will be missed."

In her place, though, are six returning letterwinners. One of those is Lisa Viessman, a sophomore who has stepped forward as one of the main setters on the team (along with senior Ashley Aggen and sophomore Holli Aggen). Clark said Viessman has made it a goal of hers to work hard on her serving, and that she would welcome stepping into the role of a main setter.

As for both Holli and Ashley Aggen, they have also been consistent servers for the Trojans. Clark said she will need continued consistent serving in order for her team to have a successful season.

Worthington also has worked on a potential change of styles. In previous years, Clark has employed a 5-1 formation, using only one setter on the court at a time. This year she's toying with the idea of going to a 6-2 formation, where there are two servers on the court at one time. But, as of now, nothing is set in stone.


"We're still up in the air. We don't really know how things are going to pan out," Clark said. "We'll see how it goes."

Clark also hopes to maintain the strong, tall frontline she had last year. Alex Wetering and Lizzy Wetering return to their spots this year, and should anchor a strong front-line defense.

Clark also enters the season with a welcome problem. The amount of talent on this year's team is so rich that there is no certainty when it comes to who will always start and who will come off the bench.

"The girls know they're fighting for a spot, and they're not going to just walk on," Clark said.

This year the Trojans enter what appears to be the most balanced Southwest Conference in years. Even with teams such as Pipestone Area and Marshall lurking at the top of the heap, the team feels confident in its ability to stay near the top -- and challenge to reach the top.

But consistent scoring will be the focal point for the Trojans' hopes of staying in contention. If the team can stay out of long scoring droughts, success will be the end result

"You can't just have a spurt here and there and expect to win games," Clark said. "It has to be a consistent, solid offense."

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