Each new school year brings an entirely new fresh approach to coaches of fall sports.
Seniors have graduated and moved on. Previous year’s sophomores and juniors are now the upperclassmen, while last year’s freshmen and the incoming rookie class (last year’s 8th gradeers), bring new faces to athletic team rosters.
The challenge is ongoing every year for a coach to figure out who can play what positions, and how to bring a new group and mesh it together in hopes of having a successful season.
The Holcomb Longhorns volleyball team, and coach Jennifer Barrett specifically, understand that all too well.
With just two returning starters from last year’s Class 4A-II state tournament team, Barrett and her team are on the early season road to discovering how they play.
Thursday night, in a home triangular against Great West Activities Conference foes Colby and Hugoton, Barrett liked what she saw from her new and youthful team.
The Longhorns rolled by Colby in straight sets, 25-14, 25-20, although the second set was anything but easy, and then they nearly duplicated the scores against Hugoton in the late match, winning 25-10, 25-20.
Those two wins brought the early season record to 4-3 and got the ‘Horns off to a 2-0 start in the GWAC race.
“Everything’s new and we’re just trying to figure out what works best for this group of girls,” a pleased Barrett said of the two-match broom job. “It’s a work in progress for awhile.”
Barrett said this group has quickly become a team that enjoys each other and makes coaching a joy.
“They’re fun to coach and fun to be around,” Barrett said. “They’re just a good group of girls.”
In assessing her team’s on-court performance, Barrett said she saw improved service as well of serve-receive productivity.
“Overall, things just were more smooth than last week,” Barrett said.
Barrett said she liked the competitiveness of her team, especially when they trailed Hugoton in the second set early, 9-4, then rallied to tie it at 11 before finally breaking away at 20-all to win the final five points and end the match.
“I think defensively, we’re a scrappy bunch,” Barrett said. “They get down on the floor for the digs and just don’t want to give up a point.”
On the offensive side, Barrett said the team moved the ball better, but it all started with the first touch.
“It starts with the pass, and from there we did a better job,” Barrett said. “Overall, I was pleased with the progress we made on offense.”
With plenty of matches yet to be played over the next seven weeks, Barrett said the team was far from where she believes it will be down the stretch of the season.
“It just takes time to get into the smooth teamwork and become the team we want to become,” she said. “The goal is every time we step on the floor, we want to get better.”
The Longhorns are idle until Thursday when they travel to Kingman for a quadrangular that also includes Belle Plaine and Chaparral.
Note: In the remaining match of the night, Colby prevailed over Hugoton, 25-10, 25-18.