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Volleyball: Last year's experiences, mental toughness fuel 2018

The hitters use throwing drills to help develop hitting form. Who knew the two were so similar? Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 4
The varsity players practice their returns after warmups. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 4
Head coach Amy Johnson tells her players the plan for the day's practice before starting drills. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 4
Players practice a criss-cross passing drill where gradually more and more balls are added. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 4

There is no denying that last year did not go as planned for the Hastings Raiders volleyball team. However, last year's young team mostly returns for the 2018 season and head coach Amy Johnson hopes last year's experience, as well as a new focus on mental toughness, will help propel the Raiders in 2018.

"This year is about experience," Johnson said. "Last year we were pretty young, a lot of new faces to varsity. This year we have returning faces, it's change in a good way, just having that experience on the floor is going to bring a lot to our team."

"Also, we have a focus this year of mental toughness," she said about working with Dr. Cindra Kamphoff, who is well known in the field of performance psychology and has worked with numerous high school teams, Minnesota State University, Mankato and even the Minnesota Vikings on gaining a mental edge. "It will be a good change for the girls to hear about how mental toughness, visualization and all those things that Cindra's about can help our team, it will definitely put us in the right direction."

Several Hastings varsity teams will be working with Dr. Kamphoff throughout the year.

Perhaps the biggest change this season compared to last is how Hastings views its junior varsity and varsity teams.

"One of the big changes that is coming this year is that we're going to look at varsity and junior varsity as one team, which is more like other sports in Hastings do," Johnson said. "We're gonna have this joint team that will train together most of the time, at times we'll split up because there's things we'll work on as teams. But we're together, all of us, instead of having this separation between the two. I think that will bring more unity to the team and more consistency from year to year."

She said that this way, those who play primarily junior varsity this year will have been exposed to a lot of what the varsity does and will make the transition to varsity smoother next year.

Johnson said that she has seen marked improvement from numerous girls, both returners and newcomers, and could tell that they have really put the work in over the offseason. One area that stuck out in her descriptions was the improvement in passing, which was a facet of the Raiders' game which she constantly emphasized needed development last year.

Major schedule changes for 2018 include more games against section opponents and they will be hosting a tournament for the first time in a while on Saturday, Sept. 22, when they welcome eight area teams to Hastings High School.

Alec Hamilton

Alec Hamilton is a RiverTown Multimedia sports reporter covering Hastings, Farmington and Rosemount athletics. He graduated from Drake University with a journalism degree in 2014. 

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