ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Developing solid fundamentals is still the primary objective for the Hillsboro Middle School volleyball program, but Coach Stephanie Sinclair believes her eighth-grade team will be highly competitive, too.
Coming off a 6-3 record as seventh graders, this year’s team returns its key starters and is solid through the top 13, Sinclair said.
“On the eighth grade team, you’ve got some top players, and then the next 10 are real even,” she said. “That poses a real challenge for me, because our starting lineup could be different every game this year.”
Forming the core of the team will be returning starters Charity Davis, Amy Duerksen and Emily Ratzlaff, who have shown skills both as setters and hitters.
“We’re going to try to run an offense where they get to hit and set, so we can use all three of them to the best of their abilities,” Sinclair said.
The coach is pleased with how her team is developing through their preseason sessions.
“The eighth-grade class is doing a really good job,” she said. “They’re a very skilled class.”
For the seventh-graders, teaching basic skills is the priority.
“Right now I think they’re a little discouraged because they see how well the eighth-graders play,” Sinclair said. “But the eighth-graders, in turn, tell them, ‘We were like this last year, give yourself some time.’ Their skills will be there, but it takes a whole year of learning what it’s like to be on a team and the whole concept of volleyball.”
For both grades, teaching sportsmanship is part of the mandate, too.
“They grow a lot from seventh grade to eighth grade,” Sinclair said. “But we try to teach that all the way through-how to handle their emotions and their reactions.”
With 20 eighth-graders and 18 seventh-graders on the team, one of the biggest coaching challenges will be getting everyone appropriate playing time.
To help in that regard, each evening will include not only seventh-grade and eighth-grade matches, but at least one “mixed team” match with players from both grades who didn’t get much playing time otherwise.
Though she and her assistant coaches, Darlene Bartel and Anne Janzen, want to win on the court, Sinclair understands her role as a “preparer” for future years.
“I hope I prepare them for high school,” she said of her athletes. “You want to say you prepare them for life, because some of them don’t play after middle school. But they get a good learning experience about competition. And, hopefully, they’ve learned skills well enough to go on and play in high school.”
HMS VOLLEYBALL 2000 ROSTER
Eighth grade: Gina Andrews, Katie Baltzer, Kirsten Cederberg, Charity Davis, Marissa Diener, Amy Duerksen, Kim Givens, Sara Hamm, Kelsey Kaufman, Stephanie Loewen, Kelsey Metcalf, Sara Prieb, Emily Railsback, Emily Ratzlaff, Niki Streeter, Heather Stepanek, Whitney Washmon, Erin Wiebe, Marci Wodke, Jessica Vannocker.
Seventh grade: Emily Bebermeyer, Audrey Ediger, Jacque Fisher, Courtney Foth, Kim Funk, Danielle Hagen, Meridith Kliewer, Tiffany Knaak, Anna Krich, Laura Lindsay, Laura Neufeld, Megan Pauls, Kari Roble, Kelsey Sladen, Laura Skiles, Jenny Terrell, Katelin Unruh, Dianna Wright.