Switzerland County volleyball gets season off and running with opening game tonight at home

5

To put it delicately, the Switzerland County volleyball program has seen its struggles over the past few years, but with eight returning letter winners from last year’s squad providing depth and experience, the fortunes of Lady Pacer volleyball may be ready to change.

Coach Tammy Martin and her charges will quickly find out, as the Lady Pacers open their season tonight (Thursday) with a home game with Oldenburg Academy. Due to the opening night activities at the Swiss Wine Festival, there may not be a junior varsity contest, but varsity volleyball will be played.

“We’re excited to get the season started,” Coach Martin said. “There’s a lot to the mental aspect of the game, and I can see the girls beginning to understand the game better. Success in volleyball has a lot to do with aggressiveness, and right now we just need to learn how to win.”

Anchoring the eight returning varsity players are seniors Katie Rayls, Christina Ahaus, and Rachel Tressler. All saw quality varsity time last year, and will be counted on for leadership on and off the court.

Returning juniors include Jamie Phipps, Ariel Clark, and Kayla Keith; while sophomores Lindsay Scott and Jessie Ray also return for another year of varsity action.

The varsity squad will also see two new faces, as junior Angela Swanson and freshman Hayley South will also be part of the squad.

When asked about the strengths of her team, Tammy Martin said that having more experience will definitely be a big plus for the Lady Pacers, and she is also seeing the team’s offense become more aggressive.

“We have to work a lot on being quicker on defense,” the coach said. “But the girls communication skills have really improved on the floor, so we’re happy with that.”

The squad has focused its practices on learning to read the other team’s offense better than in past years; and also on making the overall Lady Pacer defense stronger.

“We also need to be much more consistent in our serving,” Tammy Martin said.

But with all of the work on the court, perhaps the biggest challenge is overcoming the losing past that the team has suffered through. Changing the mindset of her team and seeing their renewed dedication to getting better is already apparent to the second year coach.

“I’ve been talking to the girls about feeling that they can win everytime we play,” the coach said. “After we have that feeling that we can beat anyone we play, then we have to go out and prove that to ourselves. We believe that we’re a better team, and that’s a big part of being successful this year.”

When the Lady Pacers enter conference play, Coach Martin says that it could be a wide open battle for the conference title, but noted that Milan and Rising Sun should be the two schools that others will have to go through to win the championship.

“Rising Sun and Milan are going to be strong, we know that,” Coach Martin said. “We just had a scrimmage with Madison Shawe, and we played pretty well against them, so it will be interesting when we play them in the season. Southwestern was strong last year, but they lost some of their key players, so we’ll have to wait and see how they are. I’m sure Jac-Cen-Del and South Ripley are also working hard to be better.”

One of the highlights of the upcoming season will come at the end, as Switzerland County will again serve as the host of the volleyball sectional tournament.

Although it comes at the end of the year, Coach Martin and her squad is keenly aware that no Switzerland County team has ever won a volleyball sectional – so one of the team’s goals is a lofty one.

“That’s one of our goals, to win the sectional on our home floor,” the coach said. “Hosting the sectional is very exciting, and we hope that we have a lot of people there cheering us on. The sectional is over our fall break, so we’ll have to see how that works out.”

Overall there are 17 players out for the volleyball program this year, and the coach says that she would like to see more freshmen come out for the team in coming years, so she’ll be working in the middle school to have more participation in the future.

“We’re excited about the year and getting started,” Tammy Martin said. “We hope that the community comes out and supports us throughout the season.”