With five starters returning - four of them seniors - and more height available than in seasons past, Dublin head volleyball coach Pattielu Clark is confident as the 2010 season opener approaches.
The Lady Lions began workouts Monday, scrimmage in Glen Rose Friday, host an alumni scrimmage Saturday and begin the season in Whitney next Tuesday.
The busy schedule doesn’t leave much time for preseason development, which is why the return of three-year starting setter Suzanna Tolboom and four other starters is key for Dublin.
“Having Suzanna back for a third year is just like having an experienced quarterback in football,” Clark said. “It’s awesome to have a kid like her. She has leadership qualities and intelligence that I can see oozing out of her to the rest of the varsity players and others throughout the program.”
For Clark, Tolboom has become like a coach on the floor.
“Suzanna’s been with me long enough now that she’s making adjustments on the court,” Clark said. Two years ago I was having to make all those calls. Now, it’s like she’s calling all her own audibles. She knows what needs to be done.”
And Tolboom, a senior, isn’t alone in bearing the leadership responsibilities. Three of the other returning starters - Kim Spivey, Melissa Rangel and Elissa Bustamante - are also seniors, and like Tolboom, Spivey will be a three-year letterwinner.
“All of those seniors are stepping up and showing lots of leadership,” Clark said. “Three of them have actually been in my leadership class in the high school.”
Leadership training is something Clark has taken seriously.
“The team went down to a team camp at (the University of Texas) and they had classroom sessions for an hour-and-a-half each day where they heard motivational speeches and worked on leadership skills,” she said. “I believe those things will go a long way for us this fall.”
As far as tangible advantages, Clark says she has enough height to change formations on the court.
“We’re going back to a 6-2 look instead of the 5-1 we’ve used in recent years because of the height that we have and the experience at setter,” she said.
Clark says her team must become more accurate and especially more aggressive at the net.
“That’s what we’ve been lacking the last few years is multiple aggressive players,” she said. “We’re going to have 4-6 hitters on the bench to pick up the slack when someone is off.”
Underclassmen, including Kaiten DeVries, the fifth returning starter and just a junior, will figure heavily into those plans.
“Kaitlin played in the middle last year as a sophomore, and she’s really more of an outside hitter,” Clark said. “The height we have coming up with the younger kids will allow her to move to the outside.”
Behind the returning five, Clark says ongoing competition will determine the rest of the varsity roster.
“There are 4-5 kids still vying for hitting positions and several young kids also competing for defensive spots,” she said. “Those are our biggest position battles.”