|Girls keeping skills sharp in off season|
|The Press - Sports|
|Written by Bob Gerard|
|Wednesday, 08 June 2011 13:25|
It isn’t just the high school sports teams that are honing their skills with summer workouts and practices. The county’s first club volleyball team is practicing hard over the summer in hopes of improving its inaugural season record of 7-11.
Coach Heather Sulkowski started the team to help level the playing field since many players on the Jacksonville high school teams stay in shape year round by playing club ball.
“Our overall goal of the club was to provide a place for girls interested in playing year-round an opportunity to do so without having to drive to Jacksonville four times a week,” said Sulkowski.
“Many of the teams that BCHS competes against during the fall also play club so we wanted our girls to have the same opportunity. We are now training a couple of days a week this summer and we look forward to seeing their efforts pay off in the fall.”
This year the team competed in the 17-year-old division based on the players’ birthdates.
“We actually had to play up as we only had five that were 17 but you have to play at the oldest age of the girls on your team,” said Sulkowski. “The age range on our team was from 14-17.”
The team played a limited season during the spring, including four tournaments consisting of pool play the first day and single elimination on the following day.
“Our first two tournaments were a little rough and we struggled with communication and cohesiveness as a team,” commented the coach. “By the time we reached the third tournament, the girls really pulled it together and improved in many aspects of the game.”
The team took first place in the silver division. In its final tournament of the year, the team traveled to Orlando and ended up placing first in the bronze division even though one of the starters did not make the trip due to injury.
“Taylor Hancock (15) had to step in and start on the left side for us and did a tremendous job,” said Sulkowski.
Fourteen-year-old Mallory Osteen, the youngest player on the team, started in the middle. “She improved tremendously throughout the season and gained great experience playing with and against 17’s. The speed of the game is so much faster at that level.”
Fifteen-year-old Kayla Holland led the team in kills, hitting percentage and digs. Caitlin Smith and Tori Paulson played out of position but adjusted quickly to the task of learning a new position. Stephanie Collett led in services aces.
“Logan Raulerson provided great leadership for us and was our setter, so she led the team in assists. Fifteen-year-old Regan McKendree really turned it on at the end, taking on a leadership role and gaining confidence as a setter.”
Stephanie Gross was the team’s defensive specialist and over the course of the season really improved her game. Taylor Hodges, Kallie Raulerson and Sara Pettyjohn boosted ball control on the back row.
Sulkowski also paved the way for the future with the addition of younger players who competed with the girls during practice. Sixth grader Sydney Raulerson and seventh grader Alexis Wendel practiced with the team and learned a great deal about the game in the process. Because of their age they choose not to compete.
Sulkowski will decide after the summer whether to continue the club team.
“We will see where the interest is. I really enjoyed working with the girls over the past couple of months. They are the most coachable group of high school girls that I have ever coached. I also enjoyed working with my assistants Brandi Roth and Jackie Baker and I appreciate all of the hard work they put into the club,” she said.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 09 June 2011 09:27|