Volleyball looks to ace competition with new start

Regrouping each year is never something a high-school coach looks forward to as his team returns following the summer months, but for Indian River’s head volleyball coach, Jess Dodd, it’s a part of reality. With the departure of last year’s seniors — Annamarie Brown, Hayley Brennan, Nyssa Altman and Kami Brittingham — the Lady Indians are back on the hardwood with some fresh faces, high expectations and a schedule that’s anything but a walk in the park.

“We had some big talent leave us,” said Dodd, who will head the team for a 12th consecutive year. “We’re looking to rebuild the team. We pretty much have to rearrange everything.”

Once again, Dodd is left to reconstruct the setter position, a task he’s unfortunately had to deal with at the start of each year for the past four.

“Our outside hitters are gone, too,” he added. “We have [at least one] middle from last year taking position along the outside.”

This shouldn’t deter the play too much, he noted, as the transition is one that most girls have already familiarized themselves with last year.

“For the most part,” he said, “the girls still understand the system. It’s something a lot of them have worked with before.”

With the team’s last scrimmage held more than a week ago, the girls had more than enough time to ready themselves for the true test, as the 2008 season kicks off this Friday at Delmarva Christian Academy. The Lady Indians hope to improve on last year’s debut, when they fell 0-3 to Delmarva Christian to start off the season.

Last year, the Lady Indians landed just shy of the state tournament, as a 6-9 record bumped them out of the running. Sweeping wins over Delmar and Lake Forest, along with victories against Dover and Polytech weren’t enough last season. This year, the Lady Indians will aim to better their record, on the road and at home.

Although they split their away games last year, 3-3, Dodd and his team will have to start off on the right foot for the 2008 season, as Indian River opens up their first five games on the road. Following their opener at Delmarva Christian, they’ll head to Lake Forest and Caesar Rodney, on Tuesday and next Thursday, respectively.

Dodd’s team will once again host the Indian River Tournament, midway through the season on Saturday, Sept. 27, when a handful of teams will square off for bragging rights and an improved schedule.

New positions being filled isn’t the only thing Dodd has to look at. This year’s roster, comprising 14 talented players, is seeing some fresh legs and faces.

“We have a lot of new players stepping up on the team,” he said, “Some of them are new to the sport altogether. We also have some freshmen stepping onto the team.”

In preparation of the schedule, Dodd has his team centered on the essentials of the game, without things getting too fancy.

“I want the girls holding onto the simple basics,” he said, emphasizing the importance of passing and serving. “I want the girls comfortable getting the ball to one another. They need to understand how to pass.”

As for the serves, “We are focusing on getting serves in,” he added. “Power will come later. I’m just trying to get the girls to improve every day on the things that really count.”