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Core returns for HHS volleyball

8/31/2014

By AUSTIN COLBERT

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

The names are the same, but that's all the Hays High School volleyball team believes carried over from last year's disappointing 12-23 season.

"They've always said let's win WAC, but this year they're fighting for it," HHS coach Christin Nunnery said. "They are challenging each other. They are making each other better. Last year we were kind of letting our girls be average and this year they are demanding perfection from their teammates. So that's a lot different than in the past."

The Indians were a young team last year, with many underclassmen filling the roster. They lost only one senior from that team in Haley Wells, and while they still are relatively young this season, they have something they didn't have before -- experience.

"We have the exact same group of girls coming in and we just added a couple. So we really got to build last year and hopefully this year we will -- have -- set some big goals," said senior outside hitter Mattie Schlaefli. "We are looking at WAC. We want to get the WAC title really bad. And we want to make it to state this year."

Schlaefli is one of only two seniors on this year's roster, alongside middle hitter Ashlyn Parrish. The remainder of the expected starters are all juniors, some with three years of varsity experience.

Key to that group is junior libero Albany Schaffer, the team's vocal leader on the back row. Junior hitter Kylie Brown is expected to return as one of the Indians' top offensive weapons, playing both outside and in the middle.

Juniors Tessa Stickel and Audra Schmeidler are also impact hitters, with junior Madison Prough serving as the team's setter.

"Our hitting has got a lot stronger," Schlaefli said. "Our passing has got a lot stronger. And our serve-receive, especially, we've gotten a lot better there. And that will help us a lot to be able to set up the ball every time."

But what the team struggled at the most last season was the mental side. The team's youth showed throughout the season when they would fall down early and didn't know how to dig themselves out of the hole.

This isn't expected to be an issue when the team hits the court this season.

"This year we are stronger mentally. When we have a good play we are really psyched. And when we have a bad play we are easy to get back into it," Parrish said. "We think of ourselves as an older team. As a more experienced team. And we expect to do a lot. Be a lot bigger and better and get our name out there more than last year."

Also helping them get ready for the season was a tougher summer schedule. Instead of just playing in the Hays League, which features mostly schools from Class 3A and below, the Indians also competed in the Salina League, which has competition more comparable to what they will see throughout Western Athletic Conference play.

Hays High opens its season at 4 p.m. Tuesday in a triangular with Larned and La Crosse in the HHS gym. It's one of only three home dates for the Indians, the other two taking place on Sept. 16 and Oct. 2.

"We are excited this year. We feel like we are where we want to be at this point in time," Nunnery said. "It is kind of hard for us because we are expected to win (on Tuesday), so if we don't it kind of looks bad toward us. But I know these girls are going to go out and fight with everything they have in every match this year."