When it came time for a new coach to come on board for Camanche’s volleyball program, it came just as the Indians were going to have to rebuild.
Gone are top players Tiana Bark, Ashley Gonzalez and Haley Pulse, the trio who led in most of the team’s statistical categories during 2010. Many of the juniors on last year’s squad were relegated to role players or to help set up big plays by the seniors.
The good news is that new coach Erin Daniels has a group of players willing to step up and lead the Indians to a successful 2011.
“I think ‘raw’ is the best word to describe this year’s team,” said Daniels, who had been a freshman coach at Clinton and in the Omaha area before returning to the Gateway area to head her first varsity program. A 2001 graduate of East Central, Daniels played four years at Ashford University. (That included several seasons when the school was still known as Mount St. Clare.) She teaches literacy at Camanche Middle School.
“There’s a lot of talent on this team, but we’re very tentative when we play because we’ve had such good leaders last year,” she continued. “We’ll need quite a few players to step up and take on the leadership roles,”
Bark, Gonzalez and Pulse were among a talented group of seniors who led the Indians to a Big East Conference title and a 21-12 overall record in 2010. The threesome averaged 9.9 kills a game, while Bark and Pulse nearly equally divided assists, with 668 between them. Gonzalez was far and away the top blocks leader with 38.
Among this year’s returning letterwinners, only Jalyn Deering has substantial numbers in some of volleyball’s key categories: She had 107 assists and 95 percent serving success (246 of 259, 27 aces).
But she and her teammates averaged 1.2 kills a game and mustered fewer blocks than Gonzales all by herself, meaning newcomers and veterans alike will need to step up to score points.
Deering is one of three seniors — Ariel Edens and Heather Kibler are the other two — expected to lead the Indians’ nine-player rotation this season. Backing them will be juniors Sydney Grell and Courtney Sowle, and sophomores Brett Hilgendorf, Julia Moore, Libby Schnoor and Kylie Vogel.
Daniels plans to run a 6-2 formation, with Deering and Vogel doing the setting duties. Hitting-wise, Grell and Hilgendorf will play the left side, Moore and Sowle the middle and Schnoor on the right. Back row players, who will alternate as libero, are Edens and Kibler.
In addition to the regulars, junior varsity players Taylor Bialas, Katelyn Gilbert, Emily Goodell and Ashley Kramer will dress for the varsity and come in in certain game situations.
Daniels said she believed her team had the talent to finish in the top three of the now nine-team Big East Conference. The league shed three of its members when two high schools (Andrew and East Central) closed and another when Olin consolidated its athletic programs with nearby schools. However, the coach believes that her team has enough talent to be conference champions.
“I feel the girls have given 100 percent every single day,” Daniels said. “If we continue to work as a team and our communication improves, we’re going to impress a lot of people.”