The Muskie junior girls’ volleyball team already is on track—and the NorWOSSA season hasn’t even started yet.
Head coach Jason Cain is thrilled with how his squad is looking in practice so far this year.
The black-and-gold have a solid foundation to work with as the seven returning players don’t need much to get back up to speed while the rookies have a stronger base than in years past.
“It’s pretty strong,” enthused Cain. “It’s a 16-person team this year, so it’s the biggest team we’ve had in a few years.
“We have a very strong returning group.”
The extra preparedness is crucial for the Muskies if they hope to overcome Dryden.
After finishing second in NorWOSSA play with a 3-5 record last season, Fort High advanced to the league final before falling to the Eagles.
The Muskies lost the first two sets by the minimum two points before Dryden finished them off in the third set.
“I think we’re a little bit ahead of where we were last year for practice,” noted Cain. “The system we use, most of the kids already knew it from [the] club [team].
“At the beginning, we were focusing on teaching that system, but now we can actually get into proper defence and pretty soon we’ll actually start running plays,” he added.
“We didn’t do that until well into the season last year.
“It’s nice to put plays together going into your first two games instead of just playing bump ball,” Cain remarked.
The Muskies took to the floor for the first time at a tournament at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay last weekend.
Fort High performed well, winning 11-of-14 sets in round-robin play, including taking one from eventual champion Queen Elizabeth.
The black-and-gold scored 333 points during the round-robin portion while allowing only 239.
Then in the playoff round, the Muskies were able to take the first set 25-11 from St. Patrick’s, but lost the next two by scores of 25-18 and 15-13 to finish fifth out of the 16 teams.
Cain had planned to get his lines set during the tournament and figure out which players perform well together.
“Our first league game isn’t ’til [Dec. 14] so what I’m going to try to do is I’m going to mix it up as much as possible and find out which group of people meshes the best,” he explained.
“With 16 people, it’s hard to do that in practice,” he noted. “But if you actually get them playing game after game against a different opponent, you can see those kids that are going to jump ahead of their teammates to play a little better volleyball.”
As well, Cain hoped to define positions, although several players have skills where they can be plugged into multiple slots, which is a welcome problem.
“It’s kind of neat,” he remarked. “It’s a group where you can put almost anyone in any position and they should be able to do it well.
“It’s going to be very dynamic in what we can do with them,” Cain enthused.
Fort High will open its NorWOSSA campaign Dec. 14 when Dryden pays a visit. Then they’ll visit Kenora on Dec. 16 before taking a break from action for Christmas.
Cain cited three returnees who he expects to form the core of his team.
“I think you’ll find Sarah Glover will be a very strong middle,” he said. “She’s very aggressive.
“Alanna Walsh is just an all-around good volleyball player. [She’s a] very good passer, talks a lot, knows the game well.
“You’ll see a lot from Cassie Morrisseau,” he continued. “She’s one of our setters and she’s improved her game a lot over the summer.
“A lot of players from the team have played club volleyball before,” Cain said.
Meanwhile, Cain listed club team veterans Maryam Seid, Reagan Calder, and Megan Allan as rookies who should be able to contribute this season while newcomer Alyssa Windego should provide booming hits.
At this point in the year, Cain expects the Muskies will be able to hold their own defensively. However, most players are on the smaller side, so adapting an attack to that may take a little time to develop.
“Our overall height is not that tall for some of our big hitters,” he admitted. “But if they can get up there and get a swipe at the ball, they’re going to be able to hit pretty hard.
“Their passing is very strong, and we pushed that a lot in the club volleyball last year.
“I think it [club volleyball] is going to make a big difference in the high school volleyball for the next two years, for sure,” Cain stressed.