Stronger offense should help Storm Lake spikers improve overall mark
The Storm Lake High volleyball team suffered through some growing pains last season, but this year could be different, according to coach Jacquie Bauer.
The Tornadoes lost four seniors, but just one, senior setter Tina Otto, saw significiant varsity playing time.
Meanwhile, Storm Lake returns its three leading hitters from last year, including junior Trish Halder, senior Amy Sennert and sophomore Katie Overturf.
"The girls have gotten out of the gates fast and have come out hitting the ball much harder than last year," said Bauer. "With our three top hitters returning, offense will be a strong point for us."
Bauer added that this year's Tornado team will still be young - it has just three seniors - but after finishing toward the bottom of the Lakes Conference last year, Bauer is hoping for better in 2004.
"We'd like to finish in the middle to the top part of the conference," she said. "We all feel that those are realistic goals for us this season."
If the team has a weakness, it could be depth at the setter position, Bauer said.
"But we'll have a lot more options in hitting this year over last season," she added. "Our numbers are down a little bit over the last couple of years, but it's also given us a chance to work more with each individual player."
The Tornadoes have already gone to several camps in the pre-season and Bauer likes what she sees so far.
"We'll have more experience this year than last and I think our girls are hungry to have a strong season," she said.
The Tornadoes will in many ways be road warriors this season. This year, Storm Lake has just four home matches.
"This is our traveling year," Bauer said with a chuckle.
The Tornadoes will have a meet the team night Aug. 30 at the SLHS gym, according to their coach. They open the season Sept. 2 at Pocahontas in a triangular meet vs. Humboldt and Pocahontas.
Meanwhile, the Tornadoes' three seniors this year are Sennert, Jess Overturf and Diana Lai. All three are expected to see extended varsity action in 2004.
Bauer expects Sennert to be a leader on and off the court this season.
"She's the glue that helps hold things together for us," added Bauer. "She's a good leader for us and brings a lot of experience to the court."
Sennert has been a two-year starter and as a junior in 2003, was third on the team in hitting with 36 kills and 127 attacks. She led the Tornadoes in blocks with 225 total and 154 solo blocks.
Senior Jess Overturf will get the nod as a starting outside hitter, but also returns as one of the Tornadoes most experienced setters from last year.
Overturf had 415 sets last year and was second in kills with 42.
"She's a fine hitter," added Bauer. "She's a lefty so she can go cross-court. She's also a very unselfish player."
The other senior is hitter Diana Lai, an emotional sparkplug, according to Bauer. She saw some varsity action last year and is expected to contribute heavily this season, Bauer said. She was second in blocks in 2004 with 137 total blocks and 70 solo blocks.
The junior class is led by the Tornadoes' leading hitter in senior Trish Halder, this year's Pilot-Tribune's All-Area Softball player of the Year.
In volleyball last season, Halder led SLHS in kills with 57 and led the team in ace serves with 37.
"She's just a great all around player," added Bauer. "She's our best back row player along with (sophomore) Katie Overturf."
Also expected to contribute heavily is junior Heidi Hammen. But due to a softball injury in the tournament game vs. Bishop Heelan (broken collarbone), she won't be back until late September, Bauer said.
"She's another natural at hitting," the coach said.
Also returning is junior middle hitter Jenny Jones. According to Bauer, Jones has been more aggressive early this season in hitting and has the potential to be a fine blocker at the net.
Also back this season is junior Kristin Erskine, who saw some varsity playing time as a freshman but missed last year with an injury.
"She's just getting back into the swing of things early in the season," added Bauer.
Expected to contribute heavily at setter is junior Erin Anderson, who split time last year on the varsity and junior varsity teams.
Heading up a talented sophomore class is Katie Overturf, an outstanding all around player along with Halder, Bauer said.
"She could be a defensive specialist anywhere," Bauer said. "But Katie also has good hitting ability at the net."
Last season, Katie Overturf finished with 32 kills.
Bauer added sophomore Ali Kofmehl could see lots of playing time at setter while several other sophomores will see playing time as well. They include middle hitter Lindsay Guenther, Kata Harvey and Angela Lai.
Bauer added that defending Lakes Conference champion Hull Western-Christian is the team to beat again this season, but could get a run for its money from LeMars.
"Hull just has an outstanding program year after year," Bauer said. "LeMars had a tough injury to its setter but I expect them to overcome that. After that, a lot of teams, including us, will be fighting for the next spots in the conference."