Success on the volleyball court hinges on team communication.
Every hit from an opposing team can arrive at the other side of the net at a different angle to a different player. Teammates who assertively call for balls in the air run fewer risks of having the ball bounce on their side of the gym floor.
Communication is why Marion Head Volleyball Coach Jim Versch has his players participate in activities off the court — like scavenger hunts and team meals — to foster teammate relationships. He also encourages his players to give one another nicknames.
“I almost think the off-the-court stuff is more important than the on-the-court stuff sometimes,” Versch said.
On the court, the Warriors are faced with a bevy of changes. The team returns two starters — junior hitter Whitney Gordon and senior setter Chassidy Carlson — but lost hitters Julia Zeiner and Kayley Heerey, setters Lindsay Hett and Kristen Steinborn, and libero Emmali Kelsey to graduation. Junior hitter Kathy Goering transferred to Berean Academy.
“Everyone talks about, ‘You lost all these superstars,’” Versch said. “We’re still going to be good.”
Joining Carlson as the other setter in Marion’s 4-2 offensive system is senior Emily Hett. Hett played sparingly last year but is getting a chance start this season. Versch said the key for Hett is for the senior setup artist to gain confidence in the Warriors system.
“She just needs to feel comfortable,” Versch said.
Versch has pegged sophomore JayDee Schafers to take over as the team’s libero — the team’s defensive specialist that is adept at getting low against the floor and digging spikes opposing teams take for granted as scores.
Sophomore Briana Hall joins Gordon up front as another hitter. Teamed with 6-foot-2 Gordon, Hall, who also clears 6 feet, completes a tandem of tall leaping blockers at the front of the net.
Versch said Hall is the team’s most improved player, citing Hall’s play on a club team during the offseason as the catalyst for her improvement.
He is expecting Hall to provide the team with another diverse offensive player, a hitter who can swoop in from the wings of the court and pound balls down the center of the defense.
Versch has rotated players in the last starting spot. The final hitting spot has been filled by seniors Raelene Allen, Shelby Percel, and Sarah Guetersloh, junior Annie Whitaker, sophomore Montana Percel, and freshman Katey Ehrlich.
Guiding the lineup likely to include two sophomores and a freshman is senior setter Carlson. While the Carlson-to-Gordon connection should be reliable and natural for Carlson, she is tasked with cataloging the strengths and weaknesses of new hitters.
“She’s adjusting to new hitters. She played with those girls the first year she was out,” Versch said of Carlson’s relationship with the hitters on last year’s senior laden squad.
Although Carlson will likely be the team’s top distributor, junior Gordon should be the team’s top offensive player. Gordon should be a hitting presence all over the court.
Versch expects Gordon to be a complete player for the Warriors.
“She is one of our best passers,” he said. “I have no fear of her playing in the back row.”
Despite the talent on the team, the Warriors will have to communicate to bring together the four new members of the team’s starting six.
The Warriors started the season with losses to Hoisington and Smoky Valley Aug. 31 and a loss to Hillsboro and victories against Southeast of Saline and Moundridge Thursday to give them a 2-3 record.