By Bethany Lee
For the first time in Christ Covenant history, the girls volleyball team got ready for the season early with summer open gyms as well as a week-long skill development camp before official practice started. “We kind of had a theme of fun and fundamentals,” director of athletics and middle school coach Tom Jones said. “We played some games, had some fun, did some skills. I think my girls are ahead of where a typical fifth grader or sixth grader would be at this stage.”
Summer workouts are a huge benefit to the team, not only to work on volleyball-related skills, but also to keep the girls in shape throughout the summer. “We did a lot of conditioning and ab workouts. They were really tiring and made us all really sore, but it got me stronger and better,” seventh grader Ella Stein said.
“Between the summer and the volleyball camp, the passing is more consistent, the serving is more consistent, the confidence in the girls has gone up exponentially,” JV and varsity coach Carissa Chappell said. Improvement is especially important this season. In the past, since JV and varsity volleyball was new to Christ Covenant, the team has played it safe—not taking many risks, but doing what made sense in the rotations and plays.
This year, however, there is a whole new mindset. “The ultimate goal for this season is conference champs. Hands down. That’s the goal. No wavering on this,” Chappell said during a huddle with the girls.
To be conference champions is the goal of every team, from middle school to varsity. Since the first practice, winning has been fixed in the mind of every player. But there will be some challenges along the way. The loss of the seniors cut the size of the varsity team in half, and already there have been injuries that are keeping a few players off the court. “There are less people, so we have like one sub,” ninth grader Mary Grace Flowers said. Less subs means less flexibility for the coaches and long games without breaks for the girls. The teams are also missing a few specialized positions, mainly a setter.
But with their goal in mind, they are already working to overcome those problems. A few middle school players have started practicing with the junior varsity team to fill in any empty spots, the coaches are training some girls to take the setter position, and the injured players are making their way back to the court. “This team is very adaptable and very flexible and they are ready to work. I think we’ll be able to go out in a game and nobody will be able to tell we had any of those issues,” Chappell said.
Her confidence is echoed across the court. Despite the small-team struggles, all the players are optimistic about the season. Esther Odeke, one of three seniors on varsity, said, “I am very excited. I think we can actually end up being conference champs. We have lost a lot of our really good players because they all graduated last year, but I am pretty confident in the people that we have gained, so I think we’ll do great. Go Spartans!”