IR volleyball raises the bar with new expectations, leadership
Last season, first-year Indian River High School volleyball head coach Jay Clark took over the program, bringing a wealth of experience and knowledge as both a coach and referee. In his second year, however, he returns with something else that he thinks will also work to the team’s advantage — knowledge and a better understanding of his returning players.
“I’ve learned a lot in the past year,” Clark said of coaching at the high school level. “I think we’re going to be an improved team, in terms of our play.”
Even after graduating five seniors — most of whom saw substantial playing time throughout last season — Clark said what he has been most impressed by in this year’s squad has been the leadership.
“This year, I’m seeing very strong leadership from the senior class and the returning players,” he said. “The experienced players are talking to the younger players. They’re helping them on the court in their positioning.”
A few of the players expected to step up and lead this year’s squad will be senior outside hitter Lili Cooney, senior setter Taylor Bunting and junior outside hitter Kaya Ziskay — who all played significant roles last season.
“We have new talents just ready to show what they’ve got,” said Cooney of some of the new players on this year’s roster. “We lost a lot of great players last year.”
Despite their returning talent, improved leadership and more effective communication, one area that they will have to overcome will be their lack of size.
“We have a hurdle to overcome with size,” Clark said of an issue that last year’s squad also struggled to combat. “We may be a bit taller than last year — still not a tall team.”
Well aware of the obstacle, Clark said that the Lady Indians are focusing on a few skills in practice that he thinks can help against some of the taller teams in the conference.
“Quickness and knowing where to be on the court, positioning — where and how to move not just yourself but in conjunction with the rest of the team,” he emphasized. “Those are the things that ultimately will take the team as far as they’re gonna go.”
Clark went on to note that, so far this pre-season, they’ve been able to work on some of the skills that last year’s team wasn’t able to get to, again thanks to the improved communication and leadership.
“People are improving their skills a little more quickly. We’re getting a chance to do some things in practice that we really never did very much at all last year,” he said. “They’re showing a lot of promise.”
The Lady Indians had a chance to put their new talent to the test Wednesday (after Coastal Point press time) in a scrimmage against Stephen Decatur High School. They won’t take the court for regular-season play until Monday, Sept. 9, against Delmar at 5 p.m. The home-opener and first of two scheduled matchups this season against the Lady Wildcats will not be counted as a conference match.
“Expectations for us are to just go out there and give it all we have, but have fun, as well,” Cooney said of the goal. “A new trophy in our showcase would be amazing.”
For live updates on the Delmar match and Indian River volleyball updates throughout the season, be sure to follow @CPointSports on Twitter, and @CoastalPoint on Instagram for photos.