"We have eight seniors and five of them are returning starters," said Storm Lake head coach Kim Johnson. "The varsity experience of these players and their leadership will push the other players to perform to the best of their ability."
Offensively, the Tornadoes return three of their top four girls in regards to kills, led by senior middle hitter Maggie Freking. Freking totaled 109 kills a season ago, and she was followed by fellow senior returnees Emily Johnson (103) and Lily Freking (97). Erin Schuelke, a senior, steps into the starting setter role after totaling 189 assists last season.
"Offensively, we return some very strong hitters," said Johnson. "That experience should allow us to run a quick tempo offense with a variety of setting options to the different positions. We have also implemented some new drills to help fine-tune their hitting technique. In addition, we will be implementing the jump serve into our offensive arsenal. Aggressive serving is one of our team strengths. We served more aggressively last year and are cranking it a notch higher this season. Finally, our setting is better as well. Erin Schuelke has a year of varsity setting experience under her belt and has been very effective in running our 5-1 offense so far in the preseason."
Serving was a strength for the green and white last year as they connected on 90% of their attempts with 184 aces (2.39 per set/2nd in Lakes). Lily Freking led with 32 aces on the year, Schuelke had 30 and Maggie Freking 26.
Defensively, Lily Freking leads the returnees with 168 digs (2.18 per set) a season ago. Sister Maggie had 150, senior libero Megan Miller had 105 (1.5), and Schuelke had 62. Maggie led in blocks with 30 on the year, Johnson had 28 and Schuelke 27.
"Defensively we are improving with every practice," said Johnson. " The girls are more aggressive and digging balls that hit the floor last year. They are also learning to trust that their teammates will be in the proper position on the court and not reaching for a ball, which gives the player behind that person an opportunity for a better pass. In addition, we have a fairly tall group of girls and should be able to execute more blocks. The girls have been working on reading the set so the transition to the block position is quicker."
Storm Lake has three more seniors expected to contribute in hitters Kallie Croker, Brenna Richter and Annabelle Eades, but depth will be something to keep an eye in 2012.
"One of my biggest concerns this season is depth," said Johnson. "As of now we have three juniors suiting varsity but none have any varsity experience so it will be very important to keep the players healthy and injury free."
Johnson states three particulars that will determine SL's success this season.
"First is passing, passing, passing," she said. "This preseason we have gone back to putting the attack on the back burner until our passing and serve receive was at an acceptable level. The accuracy of the serve receive/pass determines the type of set and number of setting options the setter has, which determines the type of offense and attacks we can run. It all starts with the serve receive and pass. The second key is for the girls to put the success of the team ahead of themselves. The motto this season is "It's not about you. It's not about me. It's about us." In order for us to be successful we have to actually believe and execute that motto every day. The third and final key to the amount of success we will have is the players need to stay healthy and injury free. We don't have much depth or varsity experience on our bench so we will be working to bring the other players up to that level."
As usual in the Lakes, the bid for a conference title runs through Hull.
"Western Christian (49-2, State runner up in 2A) is one of the most successful programs in the state, and I expect them to continue to be very strong again this year," said Johnson. " Spirit Lake (22-7) and LeMars (21-15) play consistent volleyball and will probably finish close to the top of the conference as well. The team and the coaches were not pleased with our seventh place finish in the Lake's Conference last year and are working hard to move up in the conference standings and finish in the top half."
Storm Lake opens up their season on the road at Pocahontas Area/P-P Tuesday, August 28th.