Good start for TMP volleyball
By AUSTIN COLBERT
By AUSTIN COLBERT
Nobody would have faulted the young Thomas More Prep-Marian volleyball players had they decided to quit last season.
With a roster of predominantly freshmen and sophomores, the Monarchs soldiered on through frequent hardship until relief came at season's end with a 6-27 record.
Instead of admitting defeat, TMP decided to get back to work. The Monarchs returned eight players from varsity to go with three newcomers this season, all of whom have bought into the idea of improving and learning from last year's struggle.
"They all take corrective criticism very well. They all want to be the best volleyball player that they can be," said fourth-year TMP coach Natausha Dreher. "In turn, that's going to make them better for their teammate and that's going to make them a better unit."
"If they can take the criticism from us as coaches and maybe another player looking at them saying, 'Hey, you got this,' they are going to grow. And that's what they have done. They are all very coachable young women," Dreher added.
It seems they also are capable of winning. TMP wasted no time in showing how much it has improved by sweeping Colby (25-16, 25-23) and Norton (25-18, 25-21) Tuesday in a season opening triangular at Al Billinger Fieldhouse.
Colby defeated Norton 2-0 (25-19, 25-14) in the other match of the triangular. Tuesday's matches also were the first varsity sporting events held at the Fieldhouse since it was shut down last fall by the fire marshal for not being up to code.
For a team coming off a six-win season, opening with back-to-back wins almost was too much of a good thing.
"It feels awesome to get some wins right off the bat. It kind of gives us some hope for our future and know that we can win and be successful," said Kaylor Gottschalk, the Monarchs' only senior. "I feel like our communication with each other is much better and we are more comfortable with each other I think, since we have a lot of returning players. I just think we are more confident also, this year."
TMP's greatest test came in the final set of its second match, against Norton, when a 17-14 lead turned into a 19-18 deficit. But if the Monarchs didn't quit after last season, they certainly weren't going to quit then. TMP turned its free fall around by getting seven of the set's final nine points to complete its sweep.
"It's such a momentum game and we really talked to them about keeping the momentum level on your side of the court. And with that being said, when they make an error they are very good at brushing it off," Dreher said.
"I was expecting performance. I was expecting hard work. We go in and we set goals and this was one of their goals they set to win two right off the bat at home. And I expect them to live up to that goal."
Gottschalk led the team with nine kills over the two matches, followed by eight from freshman Kayla Vitztum and seven each from sophomores Deonna Wellbrock and Madyson Koerner. Sophomore Kendra Werth led TMP with 19 digs.
Of the Monarchs' 11 varsity players, six are sophomores and two are freshmen. Melissa Pfeifer and Bailey Hageman are the lone juniors on the roster.
"I'm excited for the future. But I'm excited for now, though," Dreher said. "We always are building, but this is a building block we are going to polish. We are going to do what needs to be done this season and we are going to go with the goals these girls set and we are going to do it for them now."
TMP (2-0) will continue its season with a 5 p.m. quad Thursday in Abilene.