Fall preview: volleyballEvery year at this time, Hastings volleyball coach Rita Girgen is as optimistic a coach as you’re going to find. This year is no different. Girgen has high hopes for her team this year. It won’t be easy, as the Raiders have just three seniors and two juniors on the roster. That’s not troubling her, though.
By: Chad Richardson, The Hastings Star-Gazette
Every year at this time, Hastings volleyball coach Rita Girgen is as optimistic a coach as you’re going to find. This year is no different.
Girgen has high hopes for her team this year. It won’t be easy, as the Raiders have just three seniors and two juniors on the roster. That’s not troubling her, though.
Girgen knows she has a five-year starter back. She also has a four-year starter returning. Mix in some talented underclassmen, and her optimism knows no bounds.
“We know we’re young,” Girgen said. “We’re a younger team, but we have a lot of experience as a whole. We’re bringing back a lot – a lot of the girls who are sophomores this year saw a lot of playing time last year as freshmen. And they all have another season of (Junior Olympic volleyball) under their belt, where they played at a higher level.”
That optimism has prompted Girgen to set some lofty goals.
“We would like to finish in the top four in our conference,” she said. “We would love to make a run at a section championship, too. We have the potential to do it as long as we stay on task with all the little things we need to accomplish. If we do that, we have a really good chance of being able to compete much later in the season.”
Discipline will be a key component to the season, Girgen said.
“We need to be disciplined,” she said. “That’s the world in our program that we’ve been stressing for the last five years. We want to train the same way we play.
“We have come full circle with that. Our level of play has dramatically improved since last year. We are playing with a much faster tempo. We’re able to play with all the others teams that, last year, we couldn’t keep up with.”
In addition to discipline, confidence will be a big factor for the Raiders.
“Last year, with the tight matches that we were in, we weren’t able to finish a lot of them,” Girgen said. “We couldn’t close out the sets or win the matches. We have to have some confidence to finish those matches. Those last five points, when we are up, we need to stay up.”
Captains for the Raiders are Devon Santelman and Biancca DuFour. Santelman is a senior and DuFour is a junior.
“They’re both very aggressive players,” Girgen said. “They’re smart – they make a lot of adjustments on their own. They can just make plays happen – it’s a natural thing for them.”
This will be Santelman’s fifth year on varsity. She first came up on varsity as an eighth-grader.
“It’s very exciting to see her step into that captain’s role,” Girgen said.
Santelman will play libero again this year.
“She is very vocal back there,” Girgen said. “She makes her presence known, no matter what aspect of the game we are focusing on. She’s a communicator and a leader. She is all over the place, making great plays.”
DuFour will have a new role this year. She will be an outside hitter.
“That will be her primary position for us,” Girgen said. “And, she didn’t play all the way around for us last year. This year, she will. She’s one of those players you can’t take off the floor.”
This will be her third year of starting for the Raiders.
Hastings has two more seniors. They are Cyd Lovich and Tabitha McCloud.
Lovich will be a middle hitter.
“Cyd is looking really good right now,” Girgen said. “She’s hitting the ball really well. Her blocking is improved. She’s one of those players that is also very intense. We’re really excited to see how she’s going to perform on the varsity. She’s waited a long time for her chance, and she’s worked hard for it.”
McCloud is a setter and a defensive specialist.
“We’re probably looking to have her fill in more in the back row this year,” Girgen said. “She did do some training there this year.”
Hastings brings back several key returning players from last year’s team.
Grace Rolloff is a junior who saw playing time last year and hopes to see more time this season as an outside hitter.
Bethany Scharfe is the only other junior on the roster. She is a middle hitter hoping to get some varsity time this season.
Five sophomores hope to have big roles.
Kaylyn Nicklay is a setter.
Shelby Wassink is a defensive specialist.
Heather Peterson is an outside hitter.
Courtney Van De Velde is a middle hitter.
Jen Lindberg is an outside hitter.
Two newcomers are also hoping to make a splash. They are freshman Sabrina Astar and eighth-grader Raelyn Reinardy.
The Suburban East Conference will again be a strong volleyball conference this year.
That said, there are no clear favorites.
“The conference is up for grabs,” Girgen said. “On any night in our conference, anybody can win. This year, I think all the teams are going to be very comparable. It’s really going to come down to who has more momentum.
“That’s exciting for us. You can’t overlook anybody, and I don’t think teams can overlook us, either.”