The 2010 volleyball season started for most Kenai Peninsula teams Friday and Saturday at a jamboree in Homer. Entering her 11th season as head coach of the Mariners, Beth Trowbridge knows how beneficial the preseason tournament can be.
"I still don't know who will be where. This will be a good time to try players out in different positions," she said. "It lets them get some of the kinks out without the pressure of a real match.
"Lots of playing time is always key," Trowbridge added.
Skyview head coach Sheila Kupferschmid, also going into her 11th season, agreed with Trowbridge.
"It gets the kids some court time and we play a lot," she said. "I get to look at different situations."
Getting her team used to playing together is crucial early in the season, Kupferschmid said.
"Early competition and tournaments are a big help to that," she said. "I like to get a couple tournaments under us before duals start."
First-year Kenai Central head coach John Kennedy is using the jamboree to teach his team where they need to be on the floor.
"This week is all about trying to play with each other," he said. "It's all about learning at this point. The bottom line is I have to figure out how these girls will go together."
For Nikiski, the trip south gave the team a chance to jell, head coach Amber Oliva-Douglas said.
"The Homer jamboree is always an opportunity for all the teams to play with their lineups," she said.
Oliva-Douglas said SkyHi presented the strongest and most experienced team in Homer. For the Bulldogs, Oliva-Douglas wanted to see improvement at the jamboree, which she did. Nikiski played better Saturday than it did on Friday, she said.
"I was really pleased that my girls improved," Oliva-Douglas said. "That's what I asked them for.
"We had a great time this weekend and they played a lot of volleyball," she said.
Here's a look at this year's local teams:
Kennedy brings 25 years of volleyball experience with him to Kenai. Kennedy has coached for Skyview's and Soldotna's programs and has been coaching or officiating volleyball since 1985.
"I love it. I'm real excited about coaching this year," Kennedy said. "I have a great group of kids."
Allie McGahan and Shelby Toombs return as the Kardinals most experienced varsity netters, Kennedy said. Samantha Kelley, Samantha Little, Morgan Wensley and Lauren Schams are other key returners, he said.
"We're gonna be young, we're gonna be inexperienced," Kennedy said. "For the most part it will be a learning experience.
"The speed will be quick. That's what we're trying to figure out," Kennedy said.
Kennedy said he plans on teaching his team offense, positioning and how to make adjustments during games. By the time of the region tournament, Kennedy said he hopes to have a much-improved ball club.
"They're gonna do fine," he said. "This will be fun. I'm looking forward to it."
The Stars have to fill the void left by seven graduates, which should be no problem, said fourth-year head coach Bruce King.
"We're loaded up," he said. "We have healthy competition in every position."
Rebecca Satathite, the only returning starter, Lacey Moore and Kaycee Munn will compete for playing time on the left side while Jessie Duke, Sydney Goggia and Kaillee Skjold are fighting for middle time, King said. New to the game, Skjold is learning quickly, King said.
"She's picking up the game very fast," he said.
Alicia Hamilton, Heidi Westerman and freshman Julie Litchfield are in a three-way battle for the setter position, King said.
"This is only the third time in my coaching career that I've had a freshman on varsity from the beginning," he said.
The competition at practice has been beneficial to the team, King said.
"They are just getting after each other at practices," he said. "It's fun to go to practices when the intensity level is as high as these girls push it."
Much of the team has been playing club ball.
"Even though we don't have a whole lot of varsity experience, they're still an experienced group," King said.
King said Duke will serve in a variety of positions for SoHi.
"We're looking for Jessie Duke to have an important role for us," he said.
King said he was not surprised at the competitiveness for each position. Many girls traveled Outside to volleyball camps, he said.
"It was extremely competitive at tryouts for all three teams," King said. "The success of the program is starting to attract more and more really good athletes every year."
SoHi volleyball players know they must have a good work ethic, King said.
"You've got to work hard to play volleyball at Soldotna," he said. "That makes things easy as a coach."
Jaxon Hill, Rebecca Egan, Alicia West and Amanda McDowell are all returning starters for Kupferschmid. Elisha Hollers and Caitlyn Marang will also play important roles, she said.
"It's a good nucleus to work around," Kupferschmid said.
Britanie Whipple, Karlie Self and Mary Hauptman are all competing for playing time, Kupferschmid said.
"We've got good numbers out for our program," Kupferschmid said. "The kids have worked real hard in the offseason.
"They're pretty competitive among themselves, which will be used to make us a better team," she said.
Kupferschmid said she'll look to fill the voids left by graduates Monica Hutchison, Casee Penrod and Jaci Lamborn. Competition is ongoing for the setter and libero spots.
Kupferschmid said the team is excited about hosting the region tournament this year. A school gets a chance about once every decade to host the event, she said.
Most of Homer's young team is back for Trowbridge. She said just two seniors graduated from last year's team.
"We're still young, but a little more experienced," Trowbridge said.
Starting senior setter Ashley Ketelle will be a key returner for the Mariners.
"Not only is she a setter but also she's one of my best defensive players," Trowbridge said. Ketelle is a great motivator for the rest of the squad, she said.
Three-year varsity player Brooke DeVaney is another top returner, Trowbridge said.
"She has a lot of varsity experience," she said. "She's got a lot of fire and a lot of dedication."
Ball control will be essential for Homer, Trowbridge said.
"We're not tall," she said. "We're not going to have anybody that will really dominate at the net. Defense and hustle is going to be our game."
Trowbridge said most Peninsula teams will be attempting to fill holes left by graduates.
"I think everyone is in the same boat on the Peninsula," she said. "It will be kind of interesting to see how it all shakes out down here."
Half of the Bulldogs eight-person roster is made up of returning players. Sophomore Makenzie Moore and juniors Savannah Griffel, Minna Bogard and Kinsey Martin make up the returners for second-year head coach Oliva-Douglas.
"We're a very young team," Oliva-Douglas said. "Our main focus is going to be building their skills, building their court awareness and building their confidence and cohesion. That way they can have success later in the season."
Getting better game to game is main goal for Nikiski.
"The main thing I'm looking for out of them is improvement in every game," Oliva-Douglas said.
With a group of quiet girls, Oliva-Douglas said she plans to work with them on communication and being more aggressive.
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