Junior spikers forced to hit ground

Dan Falloon

So much for easing into the season.
With a grand total of zero games under their belts, the Muskie junior girls’ volleyball team marched into Dryden last Monday (Dec. 14) and fell to the Eagles 3-0 (25-20, 25-19, 25-9).
Then returning home, they lost 3-1 (18-25, 20-25, 25-23, 22-25) to the Kenora Broncos the following day.
Before the Dryden game, coach Jason Cain had predicted a stiff challenge from the Eagles, the defending NorWOSSA champs, who already had participated in a pair of tournaments this season.
“They’re going to have a little more organization on the court, and obviously they’re used to playing with one another,” he noted.
But the Muskies were looking forward to kicking off the new season—and putting theory into action.
“You can only do so much in practice,” Cain reasoned. “It’s hard to practice what you need to work on ’til you play somebody else.”
The second-year coach explained the Muskies hosted a pre-season tournament at the end of November, but that this season’s tournament may not take place until January.
“That’s going to be the biggest downfall this year is that we haven’t had much of a chance to play before we got into the league games,” said Cain.
“It does help you,” he stressed. “You get seven or eight games in a tournament very quick, and you can see who stands out, who needs to be where, and who’s more organized.
The schedule plays even more tricks on Fort High as they only play two games before the Christmas break (Monday in Dryden and then here Tuesday versus Kenora), leaving little time for the team to gel.
“Having [just] two games and then going off for break is going to hurt, too,” Cain admitted.
“You gotta come back and right away, third day of school, you have another game, and then we take off for a tournament that weekend,” he noted.”
Cain was hard-pressed to say whether this upcoming season would be one of a serious challenge for NorWOSSA gold or of rebuilding.
“It’s hard to say,” he remarked. “I think we’re going to have a really good group of Grade 10 girls who played last year for us, and we do have some really strong Grade 9s who came up through the elementary schools.
“A couple of them are probably at par with the Grade 10s, which is really nice,” Cain said.
One on-court challenge that stands ahead for the squad is just mastering the basics, but Cain is encouraged the fireworks will come when the fundamentals do.
“At the junior level, it’s just getting your serves in and passing,” he explained.
“I think once we get the ball in play, we have a chance to get some good hits in,” he added.
Cain expects the team to be led by Grade 10 co-captains Emily Drouin and Caitlyn Sande, who have a bit more experience than some of the other players.
“They go to a lot of camps, and they have a good understanding of what has to happen,” he remarked.
“They’re great at communicating with other people, telling them where they need to be, and they’re really positive in the way they do it.”
Cain said Drouin likely would end up in a libero position, although she and Sande will start the season in a power position.
As for the fresh faces, Cain’s observations have led him to believe the group may be more developed.
“I really think that the Grade 9s are going to be a real fast learning group,” he said.
“A lot of them do play volleyball for fun, they do go to camps before playing high school, so that is going to be a big advantage.”
Cain expects Adriane Gurski to play the biggest role among the rookies on the team.
“She passes the ball very well, she sets really well, she’ll probably be very, very strong,” he lauded. “She probably stands out the most out of the Grade 9s.
“The rest are all right where they should be, but I think we’re starting with a stronger group of Grade 9s than we did last year,” Cain said.