PREP VOLLEYBALL: Worthington's volleyball squad hopes to emulate last year's success
WORTHINGTON -- "When I say jump, you say how high..." It's the final practice before the Trojans' first volleyball game of the year against Fulda, and Flo Rida's "Jump," featuring Nelly Furtado, is blaring through the Worthington high school gym....
WORTHINGTON -- "When I say jump, you say how high..."
It's the final practice before the Trojans' first volleyball game of the year against Fulda, and Flo Rida's "Jump," featuring Nelly Furtado, is blaring through the Worthington high school gym. It's the song the girls have chosen for their warm-up routine.
Not that Martha Alwal needs to jump that much.
Listed at 6-foot-3, the junior middle-hitter's reach spans far above the net.
She can attack pretty well, too.
Alwal was an imposing obstacle for opponents last year, leading WHS with 102 blocks and finishing second on the team with 274 kills. Her performance earned her a spot on the all-Southwest Conference team.
This year, head coach Melissa Schutz expects Alwal to be even better.
"Martha's more confident this year and really becoming one of the leaders on the team," she said. "We've talked about goals and she wants to break that 300 mark in kills and just get as many strong hits as she can."
With only four letterwinners returning from last season's squad, Schutz knows that Alwal is crucial to the Trojans' success.
"We lost eight seniors that were great players and good leaders," she said. "We have a lot of holes to fill."
One of those holes is left by Holli Aggen, an all-conference outside hitter who will be playing basketball at the University of Sioux Falls this winter. Aggen is taking her team-leading 279 kills and 225 digs with her.
Also gone are Anneli Dudley's 618 set assists and Anndi Russell's 40 ace serves.
Schutz thinks senior Tiffany Harberts will pick up some of the slack.
Besides Alwal, Harberts is the only other returner who had significant playing time last year. She had 71 kills from the outside hitter slot.
The head coach knows the other players have to be quick learners, because teams are bound to avoid Alwal's presence in the middle of the net.
"I think teams are going to try and hit around her, and that's when you have to have your defense in a certain area to dig the ball," Schutz said.
Alwal has complete faith in her teammates.
"The group of girls we have is a good team, we all work together," she said.
Harberts is ready to do her part.
"We're watching the tips, but also the kills that will come around Martha," she said. "We have to be diving, always on our toes."
That team defense, especially serve receiving, is something Schutz said the Trojans have been working on the past two weeks.
Expectations are high after last year's 23-4 record, and a season that was cut short by a 3-0 loss to Jackson County Central in the sectional playoffs.
But as long as the girls are able to learn their new places, Schutz is optimistic that her Trojans can emulate last season's success.
"There's a lot of new girls and new roles and we're just trying to get them comfortable right now," she said. "Once we hit that comfort zone, we're going to be ready to go."
Alwal and Harberts are ready, and the girls have Sept. 24 on the calendar circled. That's the night they'll look to avenge last year's 3-0 loss to Marshall, the state Class AA runners up.
"Marshall's our bigger rival, and we have a better chance this year at beating them," Harberts said.
"We got beat pretty bad," she said. "We're ready for them this year."
First things first, however. The girls will face a stiff opening test tonight against the Fulda Raiders.
"Fulda's a good team, they're really scrappy," said Alwal. "It's going to be fun to to play them."
Schutz is looking to learn a lot about her team the first night out.
"We basically have three goals," she said. "Terminate the ball, give 100 percent all the time, and serve receive -- that's big.
"When it comes down to it, I know our girls want to play, and they've been waiting to get their chance to get out on the court and show what they have."