Motivation over experience for Lady Cats in '10

August 19, 2010
BY Kevin Hageland

PLANO - Despite having a roster with six seniors and seven juniors, the Plano Senior volleyball team is anything but experienced.

“We aren’t young on paper,” said Jennifer Cron, Lady Wildcats head coach. “But we are young in certain places.”

But what Plano lacks in experience, the team has just five returning players, it makes up for in the motivational category.

“Our team is really young,” said Taylor Story, Lady Wildcats senior team captain, “so we are working on getting our team chemistry together and that means a lot of positive reinforcement.”

That belief was seconded by fellow senior team captain Kelsey Hickle.

“If anyone on the team falls, it is our job as captains to pick them back up,” she said. “Whether it’s after an error or whatever else, we have to be there for the team.”

That team first mentality is one of the reasons Hickle was selected as a captain.

“Kelsey is such a good teammate,” Cron said, “and it’s amazing to see how far she has come since her freshman year.”

Story is the most tenured member of the Lady Wildcats squad as she has been on varsity since her freshman season.

“Taylor wants to teach the younger ones the tradition of our program,” Cron said. “And I know how bad she wants to win.”

Story and Cron are both entering their fourth season with the varsity program. And youthfulness aside, there are reasons for optimism. Plano had 59 players tryout for the varsity and junior varsity squads this season, a high under Cron, and the Lady Wildcats leader has seen better volleyball across the board.

“And obviously that’s a good sign,” Cron said.

Especially considering Plano has some major holes to fill.

Graduation left the Lady Wildcats without the services of Kristen Niethamer, Michelle Rogers, Morgan Salerno, Kenzie Thompson and Caiti Wenger. And then there was the somewhat unexpected departure of Maddy Haas, who will not return for her senior season due in part to lingering injuries.

“For us, [losing Haas] is just like someone graduating,” Cron said.

With that exodus of experience, Plano has had to reload, specifically in the middle.

Enter freshman Aubrey Davis and the sophomore tandem of Maddie Morell and Samantha Seal. The trio will be expected to hit, with each listed at 5-foot-11, while Morell and Davis attempt to clog up the middle as well.

“Those girls are very quick and they have done well adjusting to the speed of play at the varsity level,” Cron said. “Each of those girls have a lot of plusses and are able to make contributions. They are also proud to be at this level, as they should be; they aren’t taking their spots for granted.”

As they shouldn’t because Cron was clear that no lineup has been set yet.

“You play so many games in two or three days at these tournaments,” she said, “and then there are injuries that occur during the season, so our job is to make sure everyone is ready.”

The youngest three players on the Plano roster join a group of returning hitters that include Hickle and Story as well as juniors Alexa Novoa and Sarah Talley. The only other returner on the squad is senior defensive specialist Kendall Eckerd.

Running a 6-2 formation, getting the ball to the hitters will be the job of junior setters Allison Butler and Bethany Werner.

“Both our setters are progressing quickly,” Cron said, “and getting the offense to the speed it should be at.”

The learning curve is increased early in the season as Plano made a stop in Duncanville for the Tournament of Champions over the weekend, going 2-2, and will head to Allen this weekend for the Texas Open. The Lady Wildcats picked up a big win in Duncanville, defeating Houston Clear Lake, and can make even more noise Friday if they are able to defeat Class 4A powerhouse Richardson Pearce.

“The biggest opposition we are facing is the youth factor,” Cron said. “But these girls go as hard as they can all the time and I am confident we can get there quickly.”

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