Experience and athleticism will help South Tama's varsity volleyball team win matches this fall, but coach Michelle Bradley and her players know on-court communication will be the needed for postseason success.
Bradley's Trojans return the majority of last year's squad that finished 15-15 in her first year as head coach. They lost four seniors, but this year's team is led by four seniors and 10 juniors that will fill the varsity line-up for the opening match next Tuesday at home.
A lack of experience on the varsity court isn't one of Bradley's worries. In fact, her players believe it will be a strength of the 2012 Trojans.
South Tama junior Samantha Holtz spikes the ball during practice Monday afternoon. Holtz is one of many varsity players returning from last year’s squad. The Trojans open the season with a home match against Grinnell on Tuesday.
"Two of our strengths are that we're a close team and we have a lot of people back from last year," senior Jade Rohach said. "It helps a lot, but we also have to keep adjusting, because we have new teammates, too."
Another strength of the STC volleyball team might be quickness and athleticism. All of the varsity team members also play on the varsity squad in basketball, track, golf, soccer, softball or tennis. Many even play a handful of sports. Coach Bradley hopes the success from those other teams will carry on to the volleyball court this fall.
"They're working very hard," coach Bradley said. "I get on them a little bit, tell them I want more and they just kind of react. For a lack of better terms, you can smell it on them. That's how bad they want it."
GrinnellAug. 286 p.m.South Tama
UnionAug. 306 p.m.South Tama
TourneySept. 19 a.m.@ BCLUW
Glad-Rein.Sept. 46 p.m.South Tama
AGWSRSept. 66 p.m.South Tama
S. HardinSept. 116 p.m.South Tama
TourneySept. 159 a.m.West Delaware
W. Marsh.Sept. 186 p.m.@ West Marshall
TourneySept. 229:30 a.m.South Tama
E. Marsh.Sept. 256 p.m.South Tama
TourneySept. 299 a.m.@C-R Prairie
BCLUWOct. 26 p.m.@ BCLUW
Grundy C.Oct. 96 p.m.@ Grundy Center
BentonOct. 186 p.m.South Tama
The Trojans biggest area of improvement from last year must be communication on the court, if they wish to improve this fall. Bradley has instilled that idea into her player's minds during the first three weeks of practice.
"One area of the game that has already improved is our communication," coach Bradley said. "We've communicated a ton during practice. That is key. It's my number one goal and they will yell, 'communication', which makes me smile. Now, it's just reading the ball earlier than they're used to. I want them to anticipate where the attack is coming from instead of reacting to it. I want them to get there before. I'm hoping to get us known as the 'scrappy team.' It's not going to take much to get there. They don't mind getting on the floor.
"They all get along," she said. "They're all very coachable, too. When they are being critiqued, they take that constructive criticism and they react to it well, instead of getting down or thinking that coach hates me. They take it and run with it. They're always trying it and asking if they're doing it right the next time."
Senior Shelby Bradley agreed with her mom, saying the team has already improved it's talking on the court, along with other aspects of the game.
"A lot of our hitters have gotten stronger since last year," S. Bradley said. "Our defense is a lot better, along with our communication on the court.
"I definitely think our strength is going to be our defense, too" she said. "We really know what's going on and we're close to each other. Our defense should be a strength of ours."
It's those areas of the game that will be needed if the Trojans want to be successful this year and accomplish their goals. They finished 15-15 last year, as they advanced to the second round of regional action, before losing to Marion.
This year's Trojans, who are all upperclassmen, have raised the bar. They aim to be improve their record, win the North Iowa Cedar League West Division, advance further into the postseason and qualify for the state tournament.
"They want to go further than that," coach Bradley said of last year's finish. "I know the ultimate goal is state, but I tell them to take it one step at a time and keep improving. As long as they keep doing that, then I raise the bar and they jump over it, we're going to keep raising the bar to see how high they can jump."
This year's seniors are S. Bradley, Riley Craun, Rohach and Grace Kavalier. The varsity juniors will be Madison Baack, Samantha Holtz, Trisha Walz, Paige Van Dyk, Tori Appelgate and Emily Martin.
South Tama opens the varsity season on Tuesday with a match against Grinnell. The freshman and junior varsity squads each start at 6 p.m. on separate courts, with the varsity to follow at approximately 7:30 p.m. The Trojans also host Union at the same time Thursday. STC's freshman squad will travel to Dike-New Hartford on Saturday for a tournament.
"It's a big opener," coach Bradley said. "Unfortunately, we won't have Madison Baack that night. It's something that she can't help. We'll miss her tremendously, but we're working around it this weekend in practice. Grinnell is scrappy and they were digging some balls that I didn't think they would get to. When South Tama and Grinnell play, you know it's going to be a great match."
The STC players are excited to play against their rival in the opener Tuesday.
"It's really nice to be at home Tuesday, especially because we're playing Grinnell," Rohach said. "We just want to beat them."