Rifle High School's volleyball team spent part of the summer, in a way, seeking its own identity.
A summer volleyball camp at Colorado State University in Fort Collins may have helped put the Bears on the right track to finding one.
"We've talked in the past about how to communicate on the court, but there we learned how to communicate off the court," Rifle coach Erin Reider said. "We had four days of getting to know one another again, and ... we ended up competing well no matter who we played."
That's something the Bears hope to do in their 2012 campaign, especially after a season that finished with a 2-17 overall record. Reider said team chemistry issues, along with injuries, helped lead to Rifle's finish.
But Rifle's volleyball team, the only school sports team that did not make the jump from the 3A to the 4A classification earlier this year, doesn't want a repeat this year. And if the kind of effort her team put out at the CSU camp is any indication, Reider feels the upcoming season looks much more promising.
It could turn out that way because of Rifle's decision to remain in the 3A Western Slope League for volleyball. Reider felt if the Bears had moved up a classification, it would have halted any progress they have already made.
Needless to say, the third-year coach likes what she saw this summer.
"One of the main things I learned from that camp is that we really, really fight," Reider said. "It may not look very pretty at times, but we play some really scrappy defense that will keep us in a lot of games this year."
Senior setter Abby Orgill, who sat out part of last season with a medical condition, is one of the key returnees this season. Senior Kimmie Rousin will move to outside hitter from the middle-hitter position, and senior Shanna Kassak is another returning starter at the libero position.
Other players Reider feels will contribute are junior setter Sarah McKutchen, sophomore middle hitter Annie Schmidt and Kylee Orgill, another sophomore middle hitter.
The Bears open their season from Aug. 30 to Sept. 1 at the Glenwood Springs Invitational tournament.