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The second installment of the Little Hawk's "Players of the Week" series, featuring varsity setters Alexa Ingram and Cyan Vanderhoef
September 8, 2014
With a sweeping 3-0 win over Cedar Rapids Washington last week and a second place finish at their first tournament of the season, City High volleyball is off to a strong start. This year, the talent is spread evenly throughout the team, from star hitters Rylee Price ‘15 and Jamie Young ‘15 to a back row with athletes like Sarah Plock ‘15. This season, one of the most important positions in volleyball is being covered by the youngsters of the team: Cyan Vanderhoef ‘17 and Alexa Ingram ‘17 are 2014’s varsity setters.
“[Beating Washington] was a great way to start because we’re more confident about the season overall,” says Ingram.
Last year, Vanderhoef and Ingram made JV and varsity as freshmen, respectively. Vanderhoef played as a setter on JV and Ingram was the only freshman to make varsity, playing as a right-side hitter.
“It feels wonderful to be starting varsity as a sophomore,” says Vanderhoef. “[Alexa] did it as a freshman, so it’s probably not as special for her.”
“It’s still special,” counters Ingram. “It will still be special even when I’m a senior.”
The setter is the player that decides what happens to the ball. She needs to have quick hands and consistency. She reads the court then makes split-second decisions as to how to ‘set’ up the point. She is the one running the show behind the scenes.
“Hitters are the ones that get the recognition because they bring the excitement,” says Vanderhoef. “But we set the others up for success,” adds Ingram.
Both Vanderhoef and Ingram believe that a big part of City High’s success so far comes from the team’s camaraderie. With team sleepovers and dinners, the players have become especially close.
“Having the team being made up of friends really drives me,” says Vanderhoef. “Last year, being way younger than everyone else on the team, we felt like we weren’t supposed to be there. Now that [our ages] have evened out, it’s gotten better and we’re getting along much better.”
Ingram feels the same way. Being the only freshman on starting varsity last year, she recognized that the spotlight focused on upperclassmen like Michaela Nelson ‘14 and Ruth Grace ‘14.
“I wouldn’t say I was intimidated by anybody last year, I just knew I had to stay back and let the others shine,” says Ingram. “This year I’m not afraid to help, give advice, even if they’re older than me.”
“Now we can all shine together,” adds Vanderhoef.
Being older and more experienced this year, Vanderhoef and Ingram are ready to take on more of a leadership role that comes with being a setter.
“It’s a lot of pressure. You have to know each hitter’s preferences for sets. Two different people can like different sets for the same position,” says Ingram. “ But I know my job and I strive to get it done. I just keep my mindset on what I need to do.”
Both players agree that mentality plays a serious role in their game. So serious, in fact, that Vanderhoef reads a packet of volleyball attitudes and mindsets to get in the zone before matches.
“Everyone’s like, ‘You’re studying? Right now? We have a game right now and you’re studying?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah,’” says Vanderhoef. “I’m in the locker room jumping up and down, reading my packet.”
One of the biggest mental aspects addressed by Vanderhoef’s packet is the power of positive thinking. Vanderhoef and Ingram agree that since volleyball is a team sport, just one player’s bad attitude can bring the whole team down.
“Almost everything in volleyball has to do with individual mentality,” says Ingram. “That determines how you play. If one of us doesn’t have the right mentality, we all go down.”
With the Battle of the Spike against West on Tuesday, Vanderhoef and Ingram are focusing on being the best players they can be.
“It’s going to be neck and neck. It’s going to be about who comes out and performs better,” says Ingram. “So we cannot get down on ourselves during the game. Even if we do lose a set, we’ll just have to pick it back up the next time around.”
“I just have to tell myself that there’s nothing stopping me from doing my best,” adds Vanderhoef. “I just have to go out there and do it.”