Coach Faith Wilder-Newman always wants her Trinity Lutheran volleyball team to be strong by tournament time and this season is no different.
“First we want the younger kids to be developed,” she said. “We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores who are going to contribute. Our senior group is really solid in their skills.
“We’re going to work on our outside hitting with everybody.”
Senior Bailey Tabeling and freshman Carson Bowling will see a lot of playing time at middle hitter.
Wilder-Newland said, “Bailey brings a lot more experience to it since this will be her third year.”
Freshman Madison Keith will play a lot at right hitter with Stella Kleffman, Ruthie Bingham and Tabeling sharing the left outside position.
The coach said she feels like she has a lot of depth, and will use the early-season matches to see what combination is most effective.
Freshman Addison Darlage will be the Cougars’ setter. Laura Roeder will be a defensive specialist, and Kiley Zabel and Drew Hubbard will also battle for playing time. Zabel is a setter-defensive specialist, and Hubbard is an outside hitter.
“We have to really control the ball well on serve-receive and just not let the ball hit the floor because we’re not really big so we’re not going to get a lot of blocks, I don’t think, so it is really important to just handle the ball, and reduce the number of mistakes we make on our side,” Wilder-Newman said.
Kleffman said she started for the Cougars as a sophomore after transferring from Columbus East.
“I’ll probably play outside and back row,” she said. “I need to stay focused on serve-receive, and be ready to move and be super aggressive on defense and make sure nothing hits the ground.
“When I’m hitting I need to be smart, especially since I’m under-sized, and learning my shots instead of just going up and wailing it every time. I like to hit a little bit cross and down the line, and almost use their blockers’ hands to try to go off of them a lot.”
Kleffman said the seniors are going to have to learn how to play with the younger players in order to have a successful season.
“We definitely have a lot of younger kids, but I think we definitely have the motivation to go (to state),” she said. “Everyone has the same drive and they want to be there because they looked up to us when we went.
“Us upperclassmen knows what it feels like, and what it feels like to take a harder loss in regionals when you’re just one game away, so definitely we’re working hard in practice and making sure the others know that there is a big opportunity and possibility that we can go to state again.”
Wilder-Newman is beginning her fourth season as head coach of the Cougars. She has guided them to three straight sectional titles and to the state runner-up position in Class 1A in 2019.
When asked about team strengths, she said, “I hope that it’s going to be serve-receive and defense, and just hitting smart, finding where the holes are, and trying to put it there.
“I think by the end of the season we’ll have more power developed by then, and we’ll be hitting the ball harder, hopefully. It’s going to take a while. This is definitely a work in progress, and a lot of young people to bring along.”
The Cougars will open their season tonight at Henryville and will open their home schedule Tuesday against Providence.
“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, we’re going to have to play our best to be successful,” Wilder-Newland said.