ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
An 11th-hour appointment as head coach and the loss of seven players with varsity experience hasn’t diminished Tina King’s optimism for this year’s Hillsboro High School volleyball team.
King, an assistant coach for the past two seasons, accepted a promotion after four-year coach Collette Burton submitted her resignation less than a month before the first official practice.
“I’m a person who does everything ahead of time, and it was kind of chaotic there for a while,” King said. “The adjustments went fine. And I’m glad I knew the girls, that was a plus.”
King takes top job with a strong resume in the sport. She was an assistant coach for one year and head coach for seven years at Tabor College, starting in 1989. Her 1992 team won an NAIA District 10 title.
In the ensuing years, King has coached U.S. Volleyball Association club teams in Newton and Wichita.
King’s experiences have given her an appreciation for the growing physical and mental demands of the rally-point format that all Kansas high school teams will be playing this season after a year of experimentation in 2002.
“Volleyball’s becoming a very fast-paced, high-tech game,” she said. “If they don’t learn to do some of the high-tech things (that rally play requires), if any of them want to play college ball, the bandwagon’s going to be gone and they’re going to be left behind.”
King believes the key to success in this faster-paced game is physical conditioning, which she has been emphasizing during the first weeks of practice.
“I think volleyball is 95 percent mental, 5 percent otherwise,” she said. “You’ve really got to be in shape and play a mental game.”
King said she’s been putting her squad of 27 players through a regimen of jump training and aerobic and anaerobic training.
“I haven’t had any complaints-at least to my face,” she said with a smile. “I feel like when I came in, they knew it was going to be a new ball game. I’m very much into discipline, respect, attitude and getting them in shape.”
Even in the midst of being challenged physically, King said, her team’s attitude has been outstanding.
“My seniors have very good attitudes,” she said. “They’re wanting to work really hard. We talked at the beginning of the year about having good attitudes and working really hard-and that’s going to take us places.”
King’s squad will feature some new faces at the varsity level. Five seniors graduated from last year’s 6-20 team, and two players, Mindy Munguya and Charity Davis, are not out this year.
Davis, a first-team all-league pick as a sophomore a year ago, transferred to a Wichita high school.
“I think it was disappointing that she felt like she wanted to go to another school, but overall the girls have really accepted it,” King said. “It happened, now it’s over, and we’re going on.”
At the core of this year’s team are three seniors who logged considerable varsity time in 2002:
n Katie Fast, a 6-foot-1-inch middle hitter who will contribute most of the height to this year’s team.
“She’s very strong on the front row,” King said. “She’s a good blocker and a good hitter.”
Fast had 52 of the team’s 117 blocks last season.
n Danielle Goossen, a 5-6 setter and front-row hitter.
“She’ll play all the way around, and she’ll be the setter,” King said. “The community will see me doing a lot more with my setters on the front row. I believe in keeping them in the game.”
Goossen had a 90.1 percent success rate as a setter last season on 539 attempts; she was successful on 93.3 percent on 150 serve attempts.
n Alisa Prior, 5-7, also will play both rows this year. Prior returned 72.6 percent of the 219 serves she received, and was second only to Davis in digs with 193. Her serving percentage was 93.2 on 249 attempts.
“She comes from last year playing a back-row specialist, and she’s still a very good back row player,” King said. “But she’ll do hitting this year also-and she’s really improved on that.”
Two other seniors, Danielle Kelley (5-8) and Jessica Ratzloff (5-4), are new to varsity ball.
“They could see time in the back row and also in hitting,” King said.
The Trojan coach is looking to three juniors to carry a significant share of the load:
n Amy Duerksen (5-7), who played in only five games last season, will play front and back rows this year.
“She’s going to set this year and she’ll also hit,” King said. “She will not sub out.”
n Emily Ratzlaff (5-7), a provisional letter winner a year ago with 34 games under her belt; she served at 94.9 percent on 79 attempts.
“She’s doing well on her back row play,” King said. “She’s a very strong hitter, but now we’ve just got to get control of the ball.”
n Katie Baltzer (5-4), who will see her first varsity time.
“Katie’s going to be a back row specialist,” King said. “She’ll go in for Katie Fast. She’s very quick on the back row.”
Laura Lindsay, a 5-7 sophomore, is expected to see some time as a backup setter.
“She’s another option as a setter,” King said. “I would probably rotate her out; she’d be a fill-in for our setter position.”
Rounding out King’s nine-member varsity squad is JuliAnne Chisholm, a 5-9 freshman who will play middle hitter.
“She’s an all-around player, but we need to get her some experience because it’s a big adjustment coming from the speed of middle school to high school,” King said.
In addition to physical conditioning, King sees her team’s positive attitude as a key strength.
“”I feel that if we do lose this year, we’re going to go down fighting,” she said. “These girls aren’t going to give up.”
As for on-court skills, King likes what she’s seen behind the serving line.
“Our serving is really strong this year-that will be a strength,” she said. “We need to work a lot on passing right now, but it’s the beginning of the year, so you can’t expect that to come overnight.”
Lack of team height may be the Trojans’ biggest challenge.
“I basically have to take these girls, who are average height, and turn them into leapers-that’s my goal,” King said. “I think the conditioning will help that. These girls go for every ball, and I think that will be our strength-and they’re working so well together.”
King said the Trojans would be baptized by fire in their Sept. 2 opener on the road against Conway Springs, a perennial power in Class 3A.
“For me, we might as well start out with them because then we’ll know what we need to work on,” King said. “They are a lot higher than anybody in our league. If we can compete with Conway Springs, everybody else will be a piece of cake.”
In the Mid Central Activities Association, King is one of six new coaches in the 10-school league. She said Lyons and Ellinwood should be the teams to beat.
“I think we’ll be able to compete with them,” she said. “I don’t have any problem saying that.”