Optimism runs high as Taft High volleyball coach Kelsey Hart hopes tonight’s home opener against Amity will provide some of the many answers she is seeking for a promising season.
“We have a lot of flexibility with who can play what positions,” she said. “Most spots are still up in the air because we have so many great options. We’ve got some great talent in the back row –both as passers and back row attackers — and a wide variety of hitters in the front row.
“We’ve also been doing quite a bit more blocking in practice. I think we can expect to see a much more aggressive, offensively strong Taft team this year.”
Returner Lily Hatton should play a key role for the Tigers beginning at 6:30 p.m. tonight, but Hart said she’s uncertain how the sophomore setter will be deployed.
“We’re not sure if we’ll be running a 5:1 or a 6:2 with her this year. All we know for sure is that she’ll be our main setter and most likely our floor captain for the year,” she said.
Hart said she is also expecting big things from returner Corey Van Damme, the squad’s lone senior.
“We’ll need Corey’s experience to help guide our younger players,” she said. “Her passing and hitting will also be important assets for our team this year. There are several players who I think will be key hitters, but we’ll have to see how they do.”
“Great new talent” will also be unveiled tonight with the likes of freshman Nat Gates and Aleah Bailey.
“Nat is going to be a great asset to our back row play — passing and some setting — this year,” Hart said. “Aleah is looking to be a great addition to our front row. I’m not sure yet which area of the net she’ll play at, but she’s got quite an arm.”
Being more competitive while enjoying themselves on the court will be among the Tigers’ chief goals, Hart said of a team that went 2-17, 1-7, but got its first league victory in several years when it claimed back-to-back wins in early October.
“A big goal this year is to get a few more wins,” she said. “We’re hoping to continue our trend of improvement and be a league contender this year. I think if we can rise to our potential, we have a great shot at meeting our goal. As always, our goal is also that all of the girls improve and have a fun season.”
Of primary importance tonight will be to get a start on filling in the blanks, Hart said.
“We’ve got about the best problem you can have on a team,” Hart said. “We have so many options for who can play what positions. Typically, by this time in the season, I know who will be playing what positions.”
Lack of varsity experience has played into that.
“Our biggest area of potential weakness is our inexperience,” she said. “We have a very young team this year. We’ll be looking to our upperclassmen and returners to provide the younger girls with on-court leadership.”
Stretching opponents to a fifth set will likely be tantamount to squeaking out a team win or two.
“Our conference is fairly evenly matched,” Hart said. “I expect all of our opponents to make us work hard for a victory, but I think we’re capable of coming out victorious if we can rise to our potential. I expect there will be quite a few more five-game sets this year.”
Regardless, optimism runs high for the 2019-20 campaign, Hart said.
“This should be an excellent season,” she said. “We would love it if we could pack the gym for home games and really make it a loud, supportive environment. I’m expecting great things from the girls this year.”
Class 3A Coastal Range League Standings
|SW=Sets Won; SL=Set Lost|
Saturday, Aug. 31 vs. Jewell @ Warrenton Tourney
Saturday, Aug. 31 vs. Culver @ Warrenton Tourney
Wednesday, Sept. 4 vs. Amity, 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 5 @ Waldport, 6:30 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 9 vs. Waldport, 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 10 @ Toledo, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 13 @ Sutherlin, 5 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 18 @ Amity, 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 19 vs. *Warrenton, 6 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 26 vs. *Clatskanie, 6 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 3 @ Willamina, 6 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 8 @ *Warrenton, 6 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 10 vs. *Rainier, 6 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 15 @ *Clatskanie, 6 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 22 vs. *Willamina, 6 p.m.
* denotes league game