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Outlook good for improved spikers

Post Independent Photo/Kara K. Pearson
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CARBONDALE ” Talent helps, but teamwork is the element that turns athletic talent into a successful volleyball team.

That’s what Karen Daugherty has been working on at Roaring Fork’s early practices.

“Teamwork is volleyball is very important because you can’t win a game with one person,” the first-year Rams coach said. “You have to have all six players out there contributing and working hard for success.”



It appears that the 2006 Rams have gotten the message.

“I think we’re a pretty well-rounded team,” Daugherty said. “We’ve got good hitters, some good defensive players and some good servers.”



They also have depth.

“This year we had a big increase in the number of girls. We have 25 out. It’s kind of exciting because it gives you more options to see who’s working hard and who’s giving their all,” said Daugherty.

Three seniors back from last year’s 14-8 club ” Erica Pelland, Kali Chestnut and Taylor Wagner ” will start along with giving the Rams leadership on the court.

They will be surrounded by a number of underclassmen in various roles.

Celeste Cumings, Coarra Bristol, Leslie French, Rebecca Roebber, Daisy Tena and Elley McBrayer “are all going to get playing time,” Daugherty noted. More help is on the way when currently injured Nicole Smeins returns to full-time status.

“We will do well if we remain together as a team, keep each other pumped up and play at our level,” Daugherty continued. “We will struggle if (the girls) don’t rely on each other and play by themselves.”

Geneva Farr has seen good chemistry develop among the members of the 2006 Rifle High volleyball team. It’s a trait the third-year coach said has changed the losing attitude that’s haunted the Bears the past few seasons.

“Our routine has advanced because our skill level is advancing,” Farr said. “I have girls (this year) who really like volleyball, and they came into the program with natural athletic ability. They are learning, and they are going to be a well-rounded team.”

The team has already posted results superior to seasons past.

The Bears won five matches at a summer tournament in Rangely. It’s the most victories Rifle has rung up ” anywhere ” in the last three years.

Next up for Rifle is snaring their first regular season match after two winless years. And that could come quickly, Farr said.

“After watching the girls after the Rangely tournament, I think the teams in our league are totally going to be surprised where Rifle is,” the coach noted.

Having seven seniors among the group of 22 players out helps. Returnees Kelsey Feeley and Jenna Withee get the starting nod at setter and defensive specialist, respectively.

The rest of the startling lineup is up for grabs. Still, there’s one trait from the past Farr likes of the ’06 Bears.

“In the past three seasons I’ve been here, my teams have been scrappy players. It’s the same this year,” she said.

Grand Valley head coach Scott Carpenter has also seen a turnaround in the attitude of his team.

“What’s pleased me the most is (the team’s) work ethic,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of improvement. We’ll be able to compete more than we did last year because our girls have been working really, really hard.”

A big front line with varsity experience helps.

Megan Johnson, a 5 foot, 10 inch senior returns as Grand Valley’s No. 1 middle blocker. Augmenting Johnson is a group of four players ” all juniors ” that are about the same height as the rest of the Cards’ front line.

Amanda Gunter has “added three to four inches of jump from last year,” Carpenter said. Whitney Ashcraft returns fully healed from last season’s ankle injury, which limited her to a few games. Lauren Schubert and Lizzie Tonder will also see action as hitters.

Sherry Mlakar is the Cardinals’ main setter; she will be backed up by Brittany Garcia, who could also get playing time as Grand Valley’s top Libaro.

Another factor in Grand Valley’s upswing is knowledge of the sport.

“There were only two girls on the team last year who played varsity volleyball before,” he explained. “(The level of play) was a shock for all of them, and we had a real struggle to get back off a bad game.”

It explains the coach’s goal of what he wants out of this year’s Cardinals at this weekend’s season-opening tournament.

“I want to get off to a good start right away. Last year, we had a hard time getting going. We talked a good game, then we got there and we didn’t.

“We were not serious. I think we’re going to play everyone on a more even keel this year. That maturity level is going to help. Now, they realize that they can do this.”

– Head Coach: Kacey Daugherty, first year

– Key Players: Erica Pelland, senior; Kali Chestnut, senior; Taylor Wagner, senior

– Head Coach: Geneva Farr, third year

– Key Players: Kelsey Feeley, senior, setter; Jenna Withee, senior, defensive specialist

– Head Coach: Scott Carpenter, second year

– Key Players: Megan Johnson, senior, middle hitter; Amanda Gunter, junior, outside hitter; Sherry Mlakar, junior, setter


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