Thomas More Prep-Marian volleyball coach Natausha Dreher couldn’t fault the aggressiveness her team showed in Tuesday’s triangular in Al Billinger Fieldhouse.
While the Monarchs’ willingness to take chances didn’t always work in TMP’s favor, Dreher said it will pay dividends in the future.
TMP beat Oakley 25-9, 25-13 in the first match. The Monarchs were pushed a little harder by Hill City, taking a 25-23, 25-18 in the last match of the night.
TMP, ranked No. 4 in Class 3A, moved to 7-0.
"I think that I saw a lot of really great things," Dreher said. "I think that the things that they are trying and willing to make errors on, I’m very proud of. They’re trying run a fast offense and while maybe those balls are going into the net on September 1st, in two weeks they’re going to be where they’re supposed to.
"For getting out of their comfort zone, I am proud of them for that. That stuff is going to come around. I’ve seen them play better, but there was still a lot of moments I’m very proud of."
Hill City took a 15-10 lead in the second set of the final match but TMP reeled off six straight points and took control down the stretch. The match ended in rousing fashion after an outstanding defensive play from senior Jadyn Gottschalk led to a kill from Emilee Lane.
"We finished the day with a hustle play," Dreher said. "Jadyn Gottschalk had a great pancake right there at the end. Everybody’s celebrating that first touch, and then transitioning into a really awesome kill where Emilee Lane put down a really solid ball. I think everybody was just excited about that first touch as they were the third, and the second touch. That’s wonderful to see."
Junior Sophia Balthazor also came up with some key plays in the middle of the second set against Hill City.
"She has improved tremendously," Dreher said. "She’s another kid that has definitely started to come out of her comfort zone and has really sped up her approach and is seeing the floor a lot better, working really well at hitting high hands. I’m seeing more smiles out of her so I think that the stress is becoming less and the enjoyment is becoming more. I always enjoy seeing that out of a kid. She’s been doing a lot of great things for us."
Dreher said varsity newcomers Aliya Seib and Kiera Wagstaff have helped solidify TMP’s depth.
"They’re doing their job really, really well," Dreher said. "Very open to learn, little sponges. I love having them in the gym and all the girls love having them in the gym. Definite enjoyment in the depth on our bench and it makes for a good time for everybody."
After the Monarchs exerted a lot of energy to go 5-0 this past weekend in the Hays High Maroon and Gold Invitational, Dreher said she didn’t worry about her team having a letdown on Tuesday.
"They are competitors, so I know they need to be at that level," Dreher said. "At that same time, we as a staff need to try to listen to their bodies and think about what they just went through. Sometimes I worry a little bit more about mental fatigue than I do physical fatigue. But I think that they are all competitors and they know when they step into the gym it’s time to perform. I think they were going to show up and compete no matter what."
Like many teams around the state this fall, TMP chose to make its home opener senior night. The Monarchs honored Gottschalk, Emilee Augustine, McKenzie Linenberger, Sophia Mickelson-Coulter and Sasha Wasinger.
"One of the senior moms suggested that we think about moving (senior night) for the just-in-case," Dreher said. "I’m really happy that they were able to get that moment here. I feel like all of our seniors also played incredibly well. Sometimes when you have senior night that can lead to a little bit of emotions that sometimes you can carry out to the floor, but I feel like they all went out there and enjoyed what is their senior night. Very proud of every single one of them."
The Monarchs will be back in action on Thursday in the Abilene quadrangular with Concordia and Smoky Valley.