First-year Marion High School head volleyball coach Deanna Thierolf leaves no question as to the style of play she expects as the Lady Warriors look to rebound from last season’s 13-21 record.
“We’re going to attack,” Theirolf said. “That’s my style of ball, that’s my personality, and look at my players — that’s their personality. They’re going to push hard.”
Marion’s seniors, juniors, and sophomores had Thierolf as their coach for middle school volleyball, and Thierolf got re-acquainted with them this summer.
“We started our workouts, weights and conditioning, and ball handling in June,” Thierolf said. “We did six or seven scrimmages this summer and it was fun to see girls step up and become that attack force. I’ve seen a huge improvement.”
Senior Briana Hall and junior Katey Ehrlich, returning starters, have experienced a welcome sense of intensity accompanying Thierolf’s return to the court.
“It’s her being tough,” Hall said. “We needed someone to push us to take it to the next level, someone always pushing us to the next level to be the best players we can be. There is high intensity level on the court.”
“It’s what we needed,” Ehrlich said. “Mrs. Thierolf brings a lot of enthusiasm.”
Thierolf said she has both talent and numbers to work with as she decides who her starting six players will be.
“We have 33 players, 2 managers, three coaches, so we have a bus full,” Thierolf said. “I don’t know who’s starting. It’s nice to have options, with different possibilities of girls coming in to help.”
Hall is one of five seniors on the team, and her height and experience make her a leading contender to return to the starting lineup. Thierolf said the off-season was a good one for Hall.
“Brianna worked hard in the off season to push herself up to the next level. She is hitting the ball well,” Thierolf said.
“It’s my senior year, and I really wanted to step it up,” Hall said. “It’s really a team process, getting everyone in the gym working together. Whatever little things I can do to help the team get one step closer to our goal, I want to do it.”
Thierolf has been pleased in practice with the efforts of other seniors.
“I’ve been really impressed with Balee Shiplet as a leader,” Thierolf said. “Montana Percell finally had a great practice — she’s a big girl, we have to use her as a wall for us. Jay Dee Schafers will come in and give us time in the back row passing.”
Ehrlich is part of a core group of juniors that got significant playing time last season, and she said they are ready to capitalize on opportunities for more court time.
“We’ve played together with the same group together since seventh grade,” Ehrlich said. “We know how each other plays, we know what our weaknesses and strengths are, which I think will help.”
Kaelyn Thierolf and Ehrlich are returning setters, and Thierolf creates a challenge her coach is happy to have.
“Kaelyn’s been hitting the ball really well,” Thierolf said. “Do I move her over to outside hitter and bring in the next setter?
“We’ve got some hitters — Megan Richmond, Kelli Hess. Kelli’s a jumper, and she’s used that to her advantage. I love their gung-ho.”
Thierolf said she has two younger players making a push for significant playing time.
“Julia Hall has looked really good this year,” Thierolf said. “Kirsten Hansen is showing some nice things as a freshman.”
Thierolf is putting heavy emphasis on maintaining momentum and finishing plays and games, areas last year’s team struggled with.
“Volleyball is a game of momentum,” Thierolf said. “You have to get that momentum on your side, get the other team down and keep driving. You can’t take a play off, you can’t quit.”
If the team is successful this year, it may owe an assist to U.S. Olympic team runner Manteo Mitchell, who finished his relay segment despite suffering a broken leg.
“He said he got through the race by thinking ‘faith, focus, and finish,’” Thierolf said. “I thought, ‘That’s us.’”
The team embraced the mantra, with Hall creating a large banner for the locker room.
“Faith, focus, finish,” Thierolf repeated. “Faith in our teammates, that they’ll be behind us. Focus on our family of volleyball girls. Focus on getting better at something each day. Finish — learn how to finish it off. Don’t let up, you have to finish.”
Thierolf won’t place any limits on the potential she sees for her team, even embracing the idea of returning to the state tournament.
“We know it’s going to be difficult, but anything is possible,” Thierolf said. “If they really put their minds to it we can be playing at the end of October.”
The Lady Warriors open the season Aug. 28 with a triangular match at USD 408 Sports and Aquatics Center.