Hungry For More

Despite the challenges of a change in leadership and injured players, coaches and athletes alike are looking to make what for many will be their last season count.

Lottie Gidal, News and Sports Editor

The annual ‘battle for the Spike’ between City and West’s volleyball teams was one of the first major tests of the season. City was looking to start off with a bang, but with a 3-2 finish to West High, the Spike will be spending the next year across town.

This loss was not going to get new head coach Tricia Carty down. She believes the varsity team has the potential it needs to do great things.

“I love the group of players that we have,” Carty said. “Some of them have been on the varsity level for three and four years. It’s been really exciting for me as a coach to see how they’ve grown in our program. We as a staff have been challenging them to accept some new rules and step out of their comfort zones, and push themselves as players and as people. It’s great to see that start to develop in the early part of the season, so I’m excited to see where that can continue to carry through the rest of October and November.”

One of the challenges the team has already faced is the loss of their longtime head coach. After 16 years in the position, Craig Pitcher stepped down earlier this year after an investigation into off-season training. Pitcher brought the team to seven state tournaments during his tenure, and was a driving force behind the team. Carty says one of her main goals this year was to make the transition as smooth as possible.

“I think for everyone, it was a pretty unexpected change, myself included,” Carty said. “It helped that I’d been with the program for so long, so a lot of things we could just keep consistent which helped make the transition a little easier for myself and for players and for parents.”

Carty has been an assistant coach at City since 2003, so she has seen the sport evolve over time.

“There’s things about the game that have changed,” Carty said. “The speed and tempo of volleyball now is just so much faster. A lot of our players are playing a lot more in the off season, so they’re getting more reps in, so the level of playing across the state has just elevated. That’s exciting, I think it makes the game better for everyone overall.”

While for the most part keeping things the same, Carty has been putting more focus on fundamental skills such as passing and footwork. She believes these are the building blocks to a successful season.

“We’ve been working a lot on our passing form and technique. It is seemingly the most basic skill in volleyball, but it can be really challenging. Your technique makes a big difference: it’s the initial contact for every play, every volley, when the ball comes back to your side. And then also a lot with transition footwork, and getting to where we need to be on the court quickly. Those two things can make a really big difference in your ability to run your offense in volleyball,” Carty said.

Senior Ellie Evans has embraced these changes, and knows that with all the seniors on the team, athletes are anxious for some success in their final year.

“This season we are definitely hungry,” Evans said. “We really want to win this year. It also helps that we have almost every single player returning from last year, so that really helps build our connection.”

Team-building has been the other aspect of the game Carty has tried to emphasize this year.

“She does do things a bit differently than how Pitch[er] did; she has been focusing a lot on the mental aspect of the game, how the team works together not only on the court but off the court,” Evans said. “She really emphasizes trust and connections, and how we get along with each other and how that affects our playing. I think that a lot of the things she’s doing, while not super different, are definitely positive changes.”

Evans has already surpassed her kill total for all of last season, only three or four weeks into the competition.

“That’s one example of where we’re really pushing our boundaries and our expectations of ourselves to achieve more,” Carty said. “There’s always challenges along the way, just as there are in any athletic season. So we have to ask ourselves, can we still be confident enough to go out and execute, even though there may be some adversity ahead of us?”