Marion High School head volleyball coach Jim Versch knew the Lady Warriors’ second year in the competitive Heart of America league would be challenging, a fact the team’s 13-21 record this season bears out.
“I knew it was going to be a competitive year,” Versch said. “Overall we had some teams ranked throughout the season, and I think it’s been a pretty strong league for volleyball historically.”
“I thought we’d be a stronger team than we turned out to be,” Versch said.
Senior Whitney Gordon was the centerpiece of the Lady Warriors’ offense, nailing 210 kills out of 626 attempts, more than double that of any other player.
“I thought Whitney would be the go-to player,” Versch said. “We didn’t get the ball to center, and consequently didn’t get the ball to Whitney enough. We probably should have gotten her 1,000 attempts.”
Versch saw improvement across the season for most of his players, most notably sophomore Kaelyn Thierolf.
“She came in with no varsity setting experience and was thrown in right away,” Versch said. “Every game she improved a little bit more. Setting at varsity is a whole different ballgame than JV. She’s very coachable, and she understood the game enough that she knew what you were going to say.”
Versch noted the win-loss record did little to dampen the enthusiasm the team played with in practice and matches.
“This group of girls, even though we weren’t doing well at the time, came in every day and practiced hard. They were giving it everything, every day, win or lose,” Versch said. “Their work ethic was incredible.”
There was one player Versch described as a model of that work ethic.
“Katey Ehrlich. She’s probably the hardest working girl on our team,” Versch said. “I’ve never heard her complain, she just keeps rolling. She played the season with injuries, I could tell she was in pain, I’d pull her out, and she wanted to go right back in.”
The departure of Gordon will likely necessitate a shift in focus in 2012 for a team without a dominant hitter, Versch said.
“We’re not going to have the power hitters, so we’re going to have to be the best defensive team we’ve ever been,” Versch said. “We’re just going to keep spoon-feeding it at people until they make mistakes.
“I think we can be a dynamic defensive team,” Versch continued. “You’re not going to see the super kills, but you’ll see the smart plays, and super digs in the back row.”
Off-season weight training and summer practices against other area schools in a noncompetitive format will be keys for the Lady Warriors to improve on this year’s record, Versch believes.
“The neatest thing is the girls really like each other, on and off the court,” Versch said. “Coaching-wise it should be easy. I don’t think it’s a rebuilding year. We just have to shift our focus a bit and really focus on defense.”