HUTCHINSON, Kan.—The Hutchinson Trinity Catholic volleyball team features two starters from a 23-8 squad that lost to Garden Plain in the Class 3A substate semifinals.
Six-foot junior Emilee Dechant and 5-5 sophomore Konner Brening return as varsity starters.
Trinity Catholic coach Jan Frieb will reload her lineup with quality underclassmen who will push her junior class. Frieb is assisted by coach Deanna Helten.
"Emilee Dechant is a fine middle blocker and we'll use her as an outside hitter," Frieb said. "Konner Brening will swing in between being an outside hitter and a setter. She's versatile and plays smart."
Junior setter Abby Russell, a transfer from Glenwood Springs, Colo., earned honorable mention Western Slope All-League honors with 416 assists last season. The Celtics will rely on Russell to establish a faster-paced attack in 2012.
"Abby is a very smart player and will be a great leader for us," Frieb said. "We're focused on playing a faster offense this year. We want to play smart and quick and mix it up with an off-speed game. We're hoping to build on what last year's team accomplished."
Frieb emphasizes executing the basic fundamentals. The team has set a 95 percent serving goal and several players are working on executing jump and float serves.
"We start with serving and service reception, which is crucial for your defense," she said. "We set a team goal of a 2.2 rating for our passing, which sets us up for our hitting game."
The Celtics graduated four senior starters. Ashley Zrubek is playing at Friends University and Rachel Vieyra is competing at Southwestern College. The Celtics qualified for the state volleyball tournament in 2004 and 2007.
Ellery Barnes is the team's lone senior. Other juniors are Libby Reimer, Adison Strawn, JoAnn Rich, Madison Watson, Katie Hilger and Brigid Reilly. Freib will start with 10 varsity players, but is anxious to see how quickly some talented sophomores and freshmen progress.
"We're working on fitting players into their roles and want to be fundamentally prepared as a team," she said. "We're working our 10-player rotation out. We have a lot of young talent and our sophomore and junior classes have some quality players."
Dechant and Russell consider volleyball their primary sport, but Frieb said most of the players compete in multiple sports during the season.
"Everybody pretty much worked out four days a week during the summer and the volleyball girls played in some summer tournaments and attended Wichita State volleyball camp," she said.
The Celtics compete in the rugged Heart of America League with defending champion Remington and perennial powers Sedgwick and Moundridge.
"The girls have developed a winning attitude and winning the Heart of America League is a goal we have not accomplished," Frieb said. This team has the potential to compete for league. Competing to reach the state tournament is something we'll strive for. I tell our junior class to play like they've got two seniors years. The girsl are focused on being accountable and are holding each other to high standards.
Trinity Catholic plays its lone home game Sept. 18 against Moundridge and Sedgwick.