Huskies spikers hope tradition prevails
EAGLE-VAIL, Colorado ” As Battle Mountain volleyball team prepared Thursday for tonight’s season opener at Montrose, signs of the program’s recent success were abundantly on display.
The banners in the walls say that the Huskies won state in 2006 and have three-straight Slope titles to their name from 2005-07.
And Huskies coach Brian Doyon expects the tradition to continue.
“It’s good athletes who train hard, and work hard through the school and the environment,” he said. “That’s the tradition I call upon. Kids are in here working hard and focused and trying to be the best they can be. That’s the part of the tradition we want to build. That’s our motto for volleyball. Yes, we’ve had wins and successes. That’s a by-product of the hard work, though.”
Battle Mountain volleyball has been thoroughly dominant for the last three years, and the Huskies do have the makings of a very competitive team in 2008. But make no mistake, this is very different squad than fans have seen in years past.
Aside from the annual disclaimer that Battle Mountain volleyball isn’t overly tall, there are no remaining members from the 2006 title squad. There are only two seniors in Anna Padget-Shields and Kelsey Plath, a small number by comparison to years past.
“It’s going to be a rebuilding year, for sure,” Doyon said. “It’s a very young team. There are only two seniors. It’s going to be a bit of a rebuilding process for them to learn the system, how to play in the system. It’s also going to be a challenge for me to create a system which works with the diversity of players we have.”
It should be noted that Doyon can do a Lou Holtz imitation with the best of them, though he did not say that Rifle will be one of the best teams Battle Mountain will face all year. But this squad has a different look, and the 2008 Huskies are embracing the challenge.
“It almost makes me more excited,” Plath said. “We walked in after tryouts and we were individuals. I could just feel that everyone wants it so bad. I think it’s exciting because we all want to come together as a team.”
One thing fans will notice immediately is that there is going to be nothing coming close to a set rotation this year for Battle Mountain. The days of having set players at fixed positions are gone.
You can expect to see Padget-Shields at outside hitter and Hannah Ellison at middle block, but Padget-Shields will also see time at setter.
“The biggest thing is that it’s going to diversify our attack,” Doyon said. “Teams aren’t going to be able to set up a block in one spot. We’re going to have some players hitting out of all three positions when they’re in the front row. It will give us different looks and different abilities in each rotation.”
So in the spirit of “you can’t tell the players without a program,” here’s a rough idea of where the Huskies will be playing.
Along with Padget-Shields, Doyon has Piper McMillin, Sam Miletich and Erin Barker on the outside. You also find McMillin at middle block with Ellison and Krista Norris. Meanwhile, Barker, Padget-Shields and Cara Murbach will all see time at setter.
“I think it’s hard having us switch all the time, but it also helps us improve as players,” Padget-Shields said. “If you’re able to play different places you can help other people out. You can understand how other players have to play. And if there’s an injury, you’re able to take over and step in if you can. It helps out a lot having all of us switch even though it’s a challenge.”
Plath is still a libero, but Murbach will be there at times as well. Jessica Whitney and Cayla Bluhm are the defensive specialists.
With the attack ” at least on paper ” not as potent as the last few years, the key will be ball control on defense.
“We’re a smaller team this year,” Plath said. “We’re going to have to outplay teams on defense and wear them out. Cara and I have been playing for a while. We all realize we’re the back row. That’s going to be the biggest thing. If we can’t get a pass, we’re not going to get our offense going.”
To the program’s credit, the Huskies have left themselves with a demanding schedule. In tonight’s game, the Huskies face Montrose, a state qualifier last season whom the Huskies also faced at regionals. Other nonconference foes include 5A Rampart and Fruita Monument.
The Slope looks increasingly competitive this season with the likes of Steamboat Springs, Eagle Valley and Moffat County.
Doyon thinks his team may struggle early as they adjust to the new landscape, but that the result in the end will be a good one.
“We’ll have a bumpy road at the beginning of the season potentially until they get worked into the system,” he said. “I’d expect that out of any young team. Hopefully by the time the season comes to an end, we’re clicking on all four cylinders and able to run.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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