HHS volleyball 1-2 in home quad
By CONOR NICHOLL
Hays High School volleyball coach Christin Nunnery has seen her young Indian squad play with teams, but not finish.
HHS, with just one senior, still doesn't have a consistent rotation with the season past its halfway point.
Nunnery estimated the Indians have changed rotations every match.
"If we had a consistent rotation, I think we would be a little bit further than what we are," Nunnery said. "But until we can get that consistent rotation, it's just a struggle. People are playing out of positions that they don't normally play. People are going in that don't normally go in."
On Thursday, HHS had trouble in those areas again. In the first match, the Indians took the first set 25-23 against Salina South.
However, Hays High dropped the next two sets 25-23, 25-15. Then the Indians lost 25-14, 25-19 to Abilene, ranked No. 10 in Class 4A. Hays High finished the night with a 25-22, 25-23 victory against Norton.
Junior Mattison Schlaefli sprained her foot Wednesday in practice, tried to play Thursday but it hurt too much.
Seven sophomores play varsity, including libero Albany Shaffer, one of the state's top defensive specialists and a vocal leader for HHS (7-14).
"She is on the court all the time," Nunnery said. "She comes out for one server and that's it. She loves the game, and it's her passion. She is the one that can get the other five on the court to drive. When she is kind of struggling, you will see our team struggle a little bit. We haven't had very many games where she has struggled. She is a consistent player and she is a great player."
Sophomores Kylie Brown and Audra Schmeidler are the Indians' top hitters, but have gone through some adjustments. Brown has played right front and middle front. However, Nunnery believed Brown was too big of a block to leave on the right side. Hays High moved her back to middle.
"She is getting more confident in her swing," Nunnery said. "That was our one reason to move her to the right side, because she has a great swing from the right side. We have been working on that. Audra is a huge swing for us. We are working on her approach. She likes to just kind of stand there and jump and she loses her momentum."
Hays High had earned a win last weekend against South. In the second set, HHS led 19-16, but couldn't close the match.
"We play really good, and then we feel like we have a big lead, so we let up a little bit," Schaffer said. "Then, we don't push as hard. It's something that we need to continue to work on."
In the third set, the Cougars jumped to a 9-3 lead and the Indians never threatened.
"The third game, it just kind of seemed like everybody was down," Nunnery said. "There was no drive. We have talked about that multiple times this year. Just because you are behind, doesn't mean that you can't have that passion and that drive to finish it."
Against Norton, Schaffer had three aces in a row early in the first set to give the Indians a 5-2 lead. Norton closed within a point a couple times late, but HHS always led. Late in the game, Hays High moved the lead to 24-21 on a Schmeidler kill. Schaffer had a big dig in the point.
"Practice reading the court everyday," Schaffer said. "Coach would just have me stand there and when they hit, they would just have me yell it out where (the offense) was going. So when we went to the game, I would know exactly where they were going."
Norton with a young team
Norton also has a young squad with two returning seniors. The rest of the team has no varsity experience under first-year coach Christine Thompson. The Bluejays stand at 7-10.
"It really has been a growing season for us," Thompson said. "A lot of maturity, mental toughness. I feel that we have been doing pretty well."
Freshman Caitlyn Cox has already emerged as one of Norton's top players.
"She has played a lot of club ball, so she has had a lot of experience on the floor," Thompson said.
"She does a really good job for us, but I still see that there is even more potential there. She could be a better hitter and she could be a better player for us. She is only a freshman, so you can't expect that much out of her. She has a potential to be a great player for us."
Thompson has coached for many years. She was Norton's former junior varsity coach, but had taken the last two seasons off when she had a baby. Previously, Thompson was also the head coach at Almena-Northern Valley.
"I am very disciplined," Thompson said. "It needs to be a particular way and volleyball is a very mental game, so you have to be mentally tough."