By Jake Schroer
Crow River News Sports
“We’ve got enough returning talent that if we don’t do decently, we probably need a new coach.”
Those were the words of 4th year Head Volleyball Coach Ryan Dehnel, who chuckled as he sat in a classroom. The 2013 volleyball season begins at the end of the month, and the Knights (18-13 last season) geared up for it at the latest in a series of morning practice sessions on Friday.
Dehnel said he believes both the girls and the coaches feel satisfied with getting to the second round of sections and bowing out against Osseo last season, but the team feels it should have gotten further. Progress is the name of the game.
Building on last year’s success requires several key components. Dehnel said the girls figured out some things that need improvement and bolstered their confidence levels with solid play toward the end of the year.
The Knights lost five seniors from last year’s squad, but this year’s class stands ready to step up. Meagan Ginter, an outside hitter, and Rae-Ann Arnes, a weak-side hitter, earned team captain distinctions for the 2013 season. Both girls head into their senior years. Also standing out was Malissa LeClair, a junior and one of the best servers according to Dehnel. Others included Kaitlin Olson, a junior defensive specialist who moves to libero, and Courtney Wooters, a senior middle hitter. Another key player was Freya Macari-Hanson, a junior outside hitter.
Bringing in replacements for graduated (or simply departed) players can be an interesting process, according to Dehnel. Every year you look at where they played, and decide if that is the best fit for this year, he said. A coach needs to figure out how to fit different players into the mix.
However, there are certain things that a coach cannot teach his players.
Coaches can teach the skills and point out changes that can be made, but they cannot teach what the athletes do with those skills, Dehnel said.
“You can use outside motivation a couple times, but in the end it comes down to them,” he added. He also said that a coach cannot teach competitiveness and that competitive kids bring value to a team.
Most of the girls on the volleyball squad are either juniors or seniors, providing depth for at least another year. The team opens the season on the road Thursday, Aug. 29 against Minnetonka. Opening the season on the road may seem like a tough deal, but Dehnel said playing away from home is good for a team because it helps players gain mental toughness.
“It puts pressure on us to provide our own energy.”
Dehnel praised his team for its great chemistry. It excited him that his new players combined with his old players were ready to take the next step, in spite of losing good players from last season.
Big rivalry matchups loom on the horizon for the Knights. Perhaps none bigger than those against the Buffalo Bison.
“The last couple years, our biggest rival has been Buffalo,” Dehnel said. The last couple of years have seen STMA and Buffalo meet late in the season with the conference title on the line. Last year, the teams split the season series with both teams beating the other on the road. STMA boasted a 6-0 road record last season, 8-5 at home.
Dehnel spoke brightly of his team and he wants them seen.
“It’s gonna be exciting, intense volleyball again this year. We’re going to have a very competitive squad.”
Dehnel also praised the hometown fans.
“Our seventh person every year is our home crowd. They make our home a great place to play.”