Nedrose volleyball hopes to avenge ’20 finish
The still-young varsity volleyball team at Nedrose High School had already made great strides throughout its brief history, but circumstances outside its control forced an abrupt and disappointing conclusion to its 2020 season before the squad was able to reach its goal.
The Cardinals, in only their fifth year of competition, had just wrapped up their regular season before the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the team right as postseason play commenced.
“Finishing the 2020 season was pretty difficult for us. We went into the district tournament and we did not have the same team composed for even two of our games,” head coach Chelsey Raymond recalled.
Due to quarantine requirements, the team was forced to roll with three completely different lineups in its three District 11 tournament games and fell short of its goal of advancing to the regional tournament.
Now fully healthy and off to a strong beginning to its 2021 fall campaign, Nedrose has carried over its goal to reach the regional tournament and beyond with a wiser and more experienced veteran core.
The Cardinals currently roster nine seniors, and Raymond’s expectations are as high as ever for a season marking the last hurrah for the majority of her team.
“We’ve got quite a few girls who have played on varsity for quite a few years. Counting on those girls to step up and be leaders for those younger girls is definitely one expectation that I had for them,” she said. “Of course, we have our sights set on regionals for the year, that’s been our goal to get back to that place.”
On the heels of a season-opening 3-1 defeat to Drake-Anamoose High School Aug. 31, the team had rattled off wins in four of its next five regular-season matches, not counting a Sept. 11 exhibition tournament at Glenburn High School.
Entering the team’s next matchup Sept. 23 against Westhope/Newburg, its veteran core had accounted for three of its top four spots on the team leaderboard in kills and digs, and two of the top four in aces.
Senior middle hitter Sophia Svystunova, outside hitter Madison Hayes, and middle hitter Koral Richter have racked up 52, 47 and 24 kills, respectively, on the young season thus far, with sophomore Kaydee Boyce’s 33 rounding out the category’s leaders.
Defensively, Hayes, senior libero Kaylie Gruber, freshman setter Kenna Huff, and Svystunova have added 62, 60, 58 and 50 respective digs through their team’s first six matches of the season.
“I think they’re really starting to come together as a team, and that’s definitely been helpful for us to get back to those basics when we can pass the ball.” Raymond continued.
The second-year head coach has stressed throughout the early-going the importance of awareness on the court of everything going on at all times, including player positioning and focus on each of her players’ jobs throughout each match.
Keeping up a positive attitude, especially in the face of adversity, has also been a key focus for the team going all the way back to preseason preparations. Raymond noted that she looks to her seniors, especially Svystunova, to lead the younger players in that regard and keep the team going throughout the struggles.
“Just getting our minds set,” Svystunova said of her team’s biggest focus in order to reach their goal. “We get down on ourselves sometimes, so just keeping a good mindset going on will help us a lot. When we do go into a game with a positive attitude, we do so great, so we need to keep that up.”
The team has shown Raymond enough early on to solidify her confidence in its ability to remain sound in the game’s basic skills, and she has begun to work with her squad on taking those skills to the next level in order to get to where they want to be come the district and regional tournaments.
“We’re to a point now where we’re really successful with our basics,” she said. “We’ve got our passing down, and now we want to start adding in some variety to our hitting game, and really watching the court and make sure we’re taking advantage of those opportunities beyond what we would normally do.”
With one eye on the prize, Svystunova and her teammates are working to hone their skills to the best of their ability, while also savoring the final season of their high school careers.
“I really love all the girls, so just playing with them is amazing and we’re getting better together,” Svystunova said. “It’s really exciting right now, because we’ve got a lot of wins in this stretch going on right now, so we’re really fired up and we want that streak to keep going.”