Volleyball: Strong 2nd half set up solid future for Tigers
Anytime you replace an entire starting rotation that went on to play at the college level (in most cases with players filling in starting roles as freshmen), there’s bound to be some drop off.
But the 2011 Douglas volleyball team fought through early season struggles to qualify for the playoffs and pick up a couple of marquee wins along the way.
In its wake, the team developed a solid foundation for 2012 and beyond with two starters and eight lettermen set to return.
“It was a wave this year,” Douglas coach Suzi Townsell said. “We couldn’t get a week where we won back-to-back matches until the last week of the regular season. It’s hard to get a rhythm going like that.
“But the overall group was such a young group, there were a lot of lessons learned there.
“We saw spurts all along and they definitely finished right. They finished very well. People who hadn’t seen us since the beginning of the year, when they saw us in late October they said we’d made some great strides. That’s all you can hope for is that they eventually land on their feet.”
Even watching the regional playoffs, Townsell said she felt like her team could’ve been on the court with Reed or Manogue at the end.
“If we could’ve pulled things together, we could’ve been right there. Those teams were good, but we could’ve been right there.”
Douglas proved its mettle with a late win over then league-leading Galena and a regular-season sweep of Damonte Ranch. Douglas swept an upstart Carson group, avenging an early-season loss, and gave Spanish Springs a tough match.
It was a far cry from how the season started, when Douglas lost a program worst five consecutive matches.
“We hit some big bumps early on,” Townsell said. “A lot of our returners had just not been in that many matches before. Our passing was off. Our serve receive was off, our digging was off. We just couldn’t seem to find a groove.”
Things started to turn around when outside hitter Heidi Schefcik switched to defensive specialist following a three-game loss to Carson on Sept. 15.
“That was one of the changes that definitely helped the team progress,” Townsell said. “Heidi was really torn because she likes to hit. But focusing her on the passing game got her really excited and she excelled there.”
“If you don’t have a pass, you can’t start with setting or hitting. We found our defense and I think once we did that, the team started to grow. Then we could try to get the offense going. We had some good surges down the stretch.”
The returning core, along with successful junior varsity and freshman groups, has Townsell excited for the future. Among the key returnees will by Ariah Barth, Katie McCullough and Jenna Broussard in the middle and Shawnee McFadden and Sage Pintler on the outsides.
“The base of the team is playing club during the offseason and they should come in a lot better,” Townsell said. “With the girls coming in next year, it should be a lot of fun. We’ll be a year stronger, but it will still basically be a young group. They really want to go somewhere. They see themselves at the next level, so that will be interesting to see how it develops.
“This year was kind of just what it was. We had high hopes. We felt like we could win every match we played. We’ll just see how far they grow up next year. We were so young, I think we were just kind of shell-shocked early on.”