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Peru volleyball squad looking to pick up the pace

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

Over the past two seasons, Peru’s volleyball team has started from the bottom and begun working its way up.

The Tigers won six sets and one match in 2015, increasing both tallies to 19 sets and five wins last year.

Entering their third season of play under head coach Katie Wyant, the group has come along by believing in the approach put in front of them.

“A lot of the learning and growth has come from the girls buying into the system,” Wyant said. “The girls believe in what we’re doing, put in the work and they really have taken to the team environment philosophy and go all out with it.

“The group of seniors we have, and the juniors who have played all three years for me, are a pretty close-knit group. They have played with each other in this sports season and in other sports seasons, which shows.”

Wyant added that in year three, it was time for the girls to start thinking less and playing more to take the game to their opponents.

“We want to continue increases the pace of the game,” Wyant noted. “When we first started, the girls were still trying to get down a lot of technique and volleyball fundamentals that weren’t well ingrained into them.

“For this group, they’ve crossed that stepping stone so now, we’re working on picking up the pace and getting girls reacting faster as well as responding to the mental side of things a lot quicker.”

Peru sees the bulk of its roster return with five seniors leading the charge in Angel Parks, Lindley Prescott, Danielle McCord, Iriyale Malone and Marjon Rafie, a set of players Wyant thought would do very well this season.

“We’re really excited about this senior group,” Wyant said. “From the time they were freshmen coming in, there are a lot of things they’ve worked on like footwork, positioning and mechanical parts to their play.

“This senior group has stepped up their game every year and grown as players. They get control of the ball and release a lot of energy.”

Other returning varsity players include juniors Maegan Sinkovics and Caitlyn Mongosa, along with sophomores Courtlynn Crowe and Samantha Zak, with junior Kelsey Schnitz and sophomore Libbey Edwards to split between varsity and JV play.

With three departures from the team in Caitlyn Hoper, Ellyn Badry and Katie Chandler, Wyant said there were chances for some of the girls to stay on the court throughout the entire rotation.

“The girls that played varsity last year and return this year have really grown into their spots,” Wyant pointed out. “They’ve taken ownership of those spots and take charge on the court.

“We have some girls that will work into the rotation serving and playing a long the back line and other girls who will play all the way around the court. That’s something we’ve not had a lot of the last two years and some of them have taken more time working on passing to play all the way around.”

Badry’s spot at libero was among the key areas to be filled with Wyant confident Mongosa could do the job.

“Caitlyn will be stepping into the libero spot,” Wyant said. “We realize the libero is not a spot you can just throw someone into.

“Going from playing three rotations to all six will be a challenge, so we may ease her into that role but if she is playing how she normally plays, she’ll be very solid in that role.”

New faces on the JV squad include sophomore Breann Yoder and freshmen Aubrey Hults, Carlee Marburger, Cheyenne Drake, Jaylan Yard, Gwen Werner, Karissa Tomson and Hailey Wolfe.

The group was one that Wyant was excited to have and was eager to see them in live action as the week kicks off.

“The freshmen are coming along,” Wyant said. “This group has a lot of talent that needs to be cleaned up a little bit as well as get them confident to play.

“We’re excited to get to see them play on Monday and put that experience together to see what they have.”

Among the things Peru will look to accomplish this season is picking up its first win in the TRC since joining the conference after nearly knocking off Northfield last year.

With matches against Manchester and Maconaquah in the first week, Wyant said the girls would have to come out swinging early.

 “The TRC is a very competitive volleyball conference,” Wyant said. “We knew going into the conference it would likely be more challenging than the old MIC was.

“Each year, the conference shifts and improves. The girls come in waves and that’s something we’re seeing right now in different programs but we want to compete in the conference, which is always the goal.

“Taking two conference games in the first week is always tough,” Wyant added. “That said, we tell the girls they have to hit the ground running and that’s how it goes.”

With three matches in the first week, beginning Monday at home with Tipton, Wyant said the goal was to continue building to longer matches and capitalizing on those wins as the season moves along.

“Aggression is a big part of what the girls need to play with teams,” Wyant said. “We’ve worked on building confidence, the mechanics and being aggressive all the way through a match, whether it’s the first set or the last set. 

“Our goal is to continue winning more sets than last year so it’s not just a game-win total but we want to be playing mores sets every match. Ideally you’d win all of them but realistically, we’d love to increase our wins both set-wise and game-wise from last year.”