Volleyball team in pursuit of excellence this season

By Jeff Smith

Setting — Junior Emily Siemonsma gets ready to set a ball with her teammate Allison Clemetson not too far behind in the Custer Invitational volleyball tournament last Saturday.

As a new coach last year Lindsy Wathen had the biggest team Hill City has seen in the last few years. There were 24 volleyball players altogether and that number has stayed the same.

What has changed is that this year is not a rebuilding year. The slogan for the season this year is “in pursuit”. Wathen said there are many interpreations of this.

“The first is a literal one. Every player is in pursuit of the ball. A nothing-hits-the-floor kind of attitude,” Wathen said.

She is looking forward to a successful season and other interpretations of the “in pursuit” slogan is in pursuit of short and long term goals, such as specific wins, team targets, and individual player improvements.

Wathen said they came into the season looking to improve ball control and defense. Wathen said that improvement was demonstrated at the Custer Invitational volleyball tournament. There was excellent passing in games there.

The team is also looking to improve on serving more aggressively, increasing communication on the courtb and using blocking strengths to their advantage. 

“We are improving our overall game by taking all our skills to the next level, such as spot and switch-up serving, executing more advanced plays at the net, and learning to make smarter decisions,” Wathen said.

At the Custer Invitational, the team placed second out of 12 total teams, losing to St. Thomas More in the championship. The team wants a winning record, including a LNI championship title after coming in second last year and plans to make into the Sweet Sixteen.

According to Wathen, the ladies on the team worked harder in the off-season than ever before.  “We had more girls try out and make Club volleyball teams this winter and spring than in any previous years,” Wathen said.

During the summer, over half the roster completed agility and weight lifting at 6:30 a.m. three days per week and attended open gyms the other week days with 80 percent-plus attendance. They also participated in numerous individual and team camps.  The team also has numerous multi-sport athletes. A collaborative effort among coaching staff in June and July, combined with buy-in and dedication from the athletes, has put the Rangers in the best possible place for success this school year.

Wathen has a lot that she enjoys about being the coach of the Hill City Rangers volleyball team. She genuinely enjoys spending time with all of the girls on the volleyball team. She said they are kind, respectful, funny and hard working.

“I enjoy watching student athletes grow in their physical ability to perform skills and their mental abilities to make good choices and handle difficult or intense situations,” Wathen said.

The skills that strengthen their mental abilities carry over to their real life and Wathen said it feels good to play a little part of their growth.

There are two seniors on the Varsity team. There are also only two juniors. The majority of the team is sophomores and freshmen.

See the girls in action at the first home game on Sept. 4 where they will face Douglas.