Devils rebuild squad with defense
GYPSUM – Replacing five starters is not an easy task for any team.It is all the more difficult when a team starts six players.The Devils will face this challenge in their second year in the 4A Slope.They will not look much like last year’s squad, in both personnel and positioning.”It’s like a new program pretty much,” said Amanda Padilla. “It will be difficult because of our size, but I think with our new coach and hard work at practice, we’ll be fine.”Rob Crawford takes over for head coach, replacing Karl Talcott. Crawford had previously coached at Eagle Valley, and came back when asked after last season.”Normally I wouldn’t do it, but it makes it that much more enjoyable when I have someone like (assistant coach) Shawn (Weatherred) working with me, and a whole team of kids who are a blast to work with,” Crawford said.While Crawford did not coach the team last year, he understands the holes that need to be filled.Of the five seniors who graduated, Kenzie Shreeve leaves biggest shoes to fill. Shreeve was named the Player of the Year in the 4A Slope after amassing a remarkable 418 kills, 169 digs, 60 aces and 37 blocks in her senior year.”We’ve come across a fun challenge this year in that we don’t have a superstar so this year we have to work together as a whole team, which will be more fun,” said Crawford.
The players note that the atmosphere will be different from last year.”Last year, there wasn’t much team chemistry or leadership; it was just in small groups,” said Padilla. “We have a good bond this year and will work well together.”A new planCrawford’s strategy will require lots of communication among all players. The plan for now is a 5-1 offense (where one player is setter and the rest are hitters), but Crawford may switch the scheme.”I’m not getting locked into anything,” Crawford said. “We might change during the season. I want these kids to be very versatile. I want them to play different positions, hit from different places on the court and learn the entire game, rather than just one spot.”In the 5-1 offense, Joanna Storer will be the main setter with Michelle Parmenter and Ashley Rohweder as the outside hitters.”I think Ashley is hitting the ball very well,” Crawford said. “She hits from a high point, she’s efficient, and serves very strong. I think she should be able to contribute a lot.”Padilla is the only returning starter, but as for the rest of the starting squad, nothing is set in stone. Senior Kellee Hollis saw time last year, and will likely make her way into the starting lineup. Summer Forsyth, Ryanne Wilson, Hattie Higgins, LynDee Cox, Kelsey Foster, Alissa Hollis an Whitney VanVoorst round out the rest of the team.
Most players on the squad, including the freshman, will get significant playing time.”Coach is going to try to put people in and change it up a bit,” Parmenter said. “The last few years, it’s been set positions, but I think putting people in different places will help us a lot.”Jumping outWhen the core of Eagle Valley departed last year, so did most of the height advantage the team possessed.”As I told the girls, we’re not the tallest team, so we’ve gotta drive teams crazy with our defensive skills,” Crawford said. “We’re working on getting our blocks up higher, and trying to improve their vertical jumps.”Crawford is instituting a new strategy that he hopes will make up for the smaller size of his team, and help establish a stalwart defense.”We are trying a new blocking strategy this year … called swing blocking,” Crawford said. “It’s like a spike approach for a block, and it allows the kids to get a little bit higher on their blocking.”Eagle Valley will be the only team to use the swing block in the region, and its opposition may not be familiar with the unique scheme. Before it can become a weapon, however, the Devils need to perfect it.
“We won’t be polished in that skill level until the middle of the year,” Crawford said. In the absence of height, most of this year’s players possess good speed and agility. Padilla thinks this will serve the team well.”Our agility and speed will really help us on defense,” Padilla said. “And our offense is going to come from defense.”Road to successCrawford understands his team has some room for improvement in some areas, but feels fortunate to have a team which is willing to listen.”The kids are willing to do whatever I ask them, no mater how hard the drill is,” Crawford said.One skill Crawford will stress during the season is passing.”We definitely need to improve our passing,” Crawford said. “It’s going to drive this team to be successful.”Sports writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 608 or via firstname.lastname@example.org
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