Plano playing it coy heading into '09

August 7, 2009
BY Andrew Snyder Staff Writer

PLANO -- If being a volleyball coach doesn’t work out for Jennifer Cron, she may want to become a professional poker player.

The Lady Wildcats head coach consistently keeps her cool during matches and when it came time to discuss her team’s prospects for the 2009 season, she was tight lipped and played her cards close to the vest.

“Right now we are trying different people in different places,” Cron said. “So we don’t really have any lineups set yet, but we have a good, solid group of players.”

That group took a hit with the graduation of Paige Webb, Danielle Manack, Kiana Parks and Carly Hoeler, but those types of losses are par for the course.

“That is pretty normal, especially around this area,” Cron said. “We are going to miss the seniors, of course, but at the same time we are excited about the new group we have coming in.”

The new group coming in includes Nikki Schuttenhelm, Vicki Liddle and Kelsey Hickle, all of whom were promoted from junior varsity. Other varsity newbies include the trio of Alex Novoa, Kendall Eckerd and Sarah Talley.

“About half our players are new,” Cron said. “So we have had to somewhat reshape the team.”

That’s not say the Lady Wildcats are all new, quite the opposite actually as the team will have varsity experience in returning players: Morgan Salerno, Kristen Niethamer, Maddy Haas, Taylor Story, Caiti Wenger, Michelle Rogers, Kenzie Thompson and Kristen Robbins.

Plano is expected to be particularly stout in the middle with Wenger, who is verbally committed to play college ball at the University of San Francisco, and Haas.

“We are definitely excited about those two players,” Cron said. “They are very at home in the middle and right now we are trying to get them in sync with the setters and form those new relationships.”

Also striving to sync up with the setters is Thompson, a returning all-district selection on the outside. Haas, Wenger, Thompson and the rest of the Plano hitters will be receiving connecting passes from a group that includes Salerno, Liddle and Rogers.

Perhaps the biggest hole for Plano to fill will be at libero as the Lady Wildcats lost a bulk of varsity experience with the graduation of Manack. Niethamer may get the first shot at filling those small, but frenetic shoes.

The lineup, whatever it settles into, will be put to the test early, as Plano opens the regular season by hosting Sachse Tuesday before travelling to Duncanville for the annual Tournament of Champions. That could be a tall task considering the Lady Wildcats have had less than a week of practices.

“It’s been a long summer and then we have quick tryouts to get things going,” Cron said. “It is a tough situation, but it’s the same for everyone, so we can’t be overly concerned about it.”

What Plano is concerned about is getting the entire team working at the same speed in an effort to make consistent improvements and not peak too early.

“It’s early, so we are still working out some of the kinks,” Cron said. “But I think we are right on schedule.”

When asked what the Lady Wildcats are on schedule to accomplish, Cron puts back on her poker face.

“I have a good idea of where we’re headed,” she said. “I think we have the players and what it takes to be strong and in contention every year. We have the highest expectations, but then again I’m sure there are a lot of programs that feel that same way.”

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