Local volleyball players easing into drills


Although there might be a tendency to put a lot of plays and sets in right away, Brownstown Central volleyball coach Jennifer Shade says it is better to start out at a slower pace.

“We’re taking the rust off,” Shade said. “We’re starting off slow because most of the kids, even though they’ve conditioned on their own and done a lot of virtual conditioning, it’s harder when you’re working on your own to push yourself, so a lot of the kids are coming back out of shape or are not ready. So we’re trying to take it slow because we don’t want to injure these athletes.”

County teams worked out twice a week the past two weeks, and beginning this week, they will be able to put more time in on the court.

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“They’re in here just a few hours and doing about an hour of conditioning and do their individual sports after that,” Shade said. “The kids can have 15 hours (on campus per week), but only six of those can be per sport. Most of them haven’t done much up until we started.”

Shade, who coached the Braves to the Class 3A state championship last fall, said this will be a very unusual season.

“Everybody is way behind. Nobody got an advantage,” she said. “We’re behind where we’re normally at, but we’re not behind other schools.”

One starter on the Braves’ title team was Jennifer Pence, who is a senior this fall. She was more than ready to begin workouts.

“It was amazing,” she said. “I was waiting for it the whole summer. It was great to be back.”

Pence started at right-side hitter for the Braves last fall and said she will either return to that spot or move into the middle.

“It depends on what the coaches decide,” she said. “They really haven’t figured that out yet.”

She said until last week, she hadn’t played any volleyball since the state tournament.

“I took a break from club ball,” Pence said. “Right now, we’re just trying to get back in shape, back into the volleyball routine and get back in the court and touch a ball again. If we can come in and shake the rust off and get moving a little bit, we’ll be just fine. It’s a new normal. The girls are figuring it out.”

Seymour is going through the same thing.

“A lot of it is conditioning because we’ve been out for a while,” coach Angie Lucas said. “Even though we’ve been doing workouts three times a week at home, it’s a little different than being in the gym, so conditioning has been a big part of it, and then just getting in our touches.

“We’re trying to get as many touches as we can during the time we’re able to be in the gym. We’re not doing any six-on-six. Phase 1 won’t allow us to do that. We’re doing a lot of partner drills, groups of three type drills and working on fundamentals.”

Lucas said she has a team camp set up for Phase 2 beginning this week.

“So the kids will be in here a few more hours, and the Munciana (volleyball club) coaches are coming down to do this team camp for us, so I’m very excited because they’ll get some really good contacts in,” Lucas said. “If we go back to Phase 1, that camp gets canceled, whatever the governor and our Seymour officials tell us.

“It has been very different because we’ve had to follow these guidelines, but it’s great to have these guidelines because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t know exactly how to handle this virus. We’re taking all precautions.”

Two seniors Lucas is counting on are Lauren Knieriem and Maggie Connell.

Knieriem started last season as the Owls’ libero and became a hitter because of an injury to another player.

“It’s so amazing to be back,” Knieriem said. “For being gone for so long, just being back makes it that much sweeter. We have our two-hour practice and then we have an hour of conditioning after.”

This is Connell’s second season with the Owls after playing at Brownstown her freshman and sophomore years.

She played all-around last year.

“I’m focusing on hitting, just getting back into my rhythm, my approach and definitely my passing,” she said. “We were all waiting for that moment to where we could all be together. It was exciting. We did Zoom workouts with coach during June, but this is completely different being in the gym.”

The early season work was the same for all schools.

“Right now, we’re working on the fundamentals because we have to stay 6 feet away from each other, and I have to stay that far away from them also,” Medora coach Missy Stewart said. “They’ve been working on passing to themselves, passing and hitting off the wall, a lot of serving because they can trace their own ball and stuff on that.

“They’ve been serving for a good 25 to 30 minutes every time. There is only so much you can do. Starting (today), they’re allowing us to go a little bit more, doing more drillwise. That will help. We can actually start working on passing and hitting and all that so we can come together then.”

Keyla Newby is among the Medora seniors. She said she practiced a little following last season, and she really looked forward to getting in the gym.

“Right now with the virus going around, we’re doing some conditioning and self-control on our ball work, just the flat basics,” she said.

It’s not as if she has forgotten how to play the game.

“I’ve been playing here since fourth grade. Volleyball is a very contact sport, and it takes a lot of upper body strength,” she said. “The teamwork is very nice to have. If you have one person who is having trouble, you can easily shift and help people out in this sport. It’s a very communicative, team sport.”

Bailey Reynolds was the setter on Trinity Lutheran’s run to the Class A state championship match last fall. She is one of four seniors on the roster, and the seniors serve as team captains.

“The first 45 minutes, we do conditioning, body strengthening, no weightlifting or anything because we don’t have time for that,” she said of the return to workouts. “For the next two hours, we usually start off with ball control with passing and a lot of drills, and then the last 45 minutes, we usually scrimmage.”

Reynolds coached fifth-graders at Immanuel Lutheran School from November to January.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “It was good to be back (at TLHS). It was good to see the girls moving around again.”

Coach Faith Wilder-Newland is stressing getting back into volleyball-specific shape.

“We’re trying to get back in touch with the ball, refine our skills. They’re kind of out of practice because their club season was cut short,” Newland said.

“We’re trying to get back into game shape. We’re doing a lot of team drills, nothing like we’ll do when August starts. We’re trying to evaluate where we are, what positions we’ve got to fill. We’ve got a lot to fill because Hannah (Sabotin) did a lot of good things for us.”

Crothersville coach Carly Blevins said it was a great feeling to get back on the floor with her players.

“We have a good team,” she said. “We’re all pretty close, so it’s good to finally have everybody together. I have a lot of girls who are amped about the season and ready to go. In July, we’re going to be working on passing, and we’ll have a new rotation, so we’ll be going over that and just trying to get down the basics again since we haven’t touched a ball for a while.”

The team will have to replace its setter and middle hitter from last season.

“We’ve got a good incoming freshman who is a great setter,” Blevins said. “She has a lot of experience in it, and we have several very tall, athletic girls who are ready to take over the middle.”

Lexi James started all-around last fall and said she likes to play right side when she is in the front row. She said it felt good to return to practice.

“It was weird because we have to stay so far apart,” James said. “I’ll be working on my passing and more on hitting because we really need help on that. I like the sportsmanship of the game and coming together and do what we all like and work as a team.”

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