After losing several key players off last year’s Class 3A state championship squad, the Thomas More Prep-Marian volleyball team figured to have some growing pains and teachable moments early this season.

That was the case for the Monarchs during Tuesday’s triangular with Phillipsburg and Hill City at Al Billinger Fieldhouse.

TMP defeated Hill City, 25-24, 25-21, but wasn't able to keep pace with Phillipsburg in a 25-12, 25-10 loss.

“I think we need to improve on our ball control obviously,” TMP coach Natausha Dreher said. “We’re a young team, but I think they have heart and fight. They’re learning and I’m learning. We just need to (focus on) ball control and start building on that.”

TMP (4-3) was locked at 24 with Hill City in the first set before two kills from Paris Wolf clinched the set. The Monarchs jumped out to an 11-3 lead in the second set and stayed in control.

However, TMP struggled to find a rhythm in the two sets against Phillipsburg.

“I feel like today wasn’t our greatest outing, period. Even with the win on Hill City,” Dreher said. “But we had a really good team meeting even after that win. We learned more about ourselves there, so that’s good.”

TMP’s varsity roster is comprised of two seniors (Wolf and Jillian Lowe), two juniors (Kallyn DeWitt and M.K. Dwyer), three sophomores (Jadyn Gottshchalk, Emilee Augustine and Sophia Mickelson-Coulter) and two freshmen (Kassidi Yost and Emilee Lane).

Dreher said Wolf and Lowe are taking on leadership roles after the Monarchs graduated five seniors off last year's team. 

“They’re teachers, they’re advisors for these young girls,” Dreher said. “They’re bringing them along. They have to be an extension of the coaching staff because we’re not on the floor. So it’s really important that they communicate with those girls and continue to help them improve, and I feel like they’re doing that.”

She’s also encouraged by the potential of her two youngest players, Yost and Lane.

“Our freshmen do really, really well,” Dreher said. “They’re very, very competitive girls. They are where they are because they deserve to be there. I don’t believe that when we play, you look at those two and can say, ‘Hey, those are freshmen.’ They play like varsity volleyball players.”

Phillipsburg improved to 5-0 on the season.

“I felt like we came out really aggressive at the net,” Phillipsburg coach Terra Keeten said. “Blocking and hitting was a strength. Our kids in the back row do a nice job of keeping it alive for us.

“I felt like we were consistent. Our setters did a good job of distributing the ball and I feel like we have multiple hitters that can take care of it, and that’s a strength for us.”