Muskie volleyball squads set rosters

Lucas Punkari

After a tryout process that left the decision on making cuts a tough one for both coaches, the rosters for the Muskie junior and senior girls’ volleyball squads have been decided.
In the senior rank, head coach Duane Roen had 16 players competing for the 12 spots on the roster, making it a tight battle among those vying to make the team.
“It’s always tough to make those cuts as those who didn’t make the team are very nice kids,” Roen noted.
“We were looking for consistent skill out of those who tried out,” he stressed.
“And while those that tried out and didn’t make the team had those fundamentals, and some had been to a few volleyball camps, we didn’t think that they were ready yet to compete at the senior level.”
For the juniors, bench boss Jason Cain had a group of 21 players battling for 15 spots, which led to some lengthy conversations with assistant coaches Amy Wilson-Hands and Megan Veniot over who would make the final squad.
“We had 11 players, for sure, in our heads who we thought should make the squad, but after that it was really tough,” Cain admitted.
“All three of us on the coaching staff came up with different scenarios in points during the game and how those players would fit into those roles the best, and we just went from there,” he added.
With both rosters seeing a fairly even split of new faces and returning veterans, both Roen and Cain feel that their respective squads have a number of different strengths going into the new season.
“I really like the enthusiasm and the hard work that the girls are putting in,” Roen said of the senior squad.
“[Coach] Char Bliss has been conditioning with them twice a week in ‘insanity workouts,’ which is helping them with their core training and should allow them to jump high, be more aggressive, and have more energy, which will be a real bonus, I think, to help us win those fifth-set games,” he reasoned.
“I think we are much stronger on defence than we have been in the past,” Cain said of the juniors.
“The kids are willing to work at their game and as a result, our passing is coming along quite well,” he lauded.
“Plus we also have three or four tall aggressive hitters.”
Prior to the NorWOSSA regular-season opener, which is set for Wednesday, Dec. 21 against the host Dryden Eagles, the squads will take part in a pair of pre-season tournaments.
The seniors will travel to Dryden this weekend for the Santa Claus Classic, with their first game going Friday at 1 p.m. against Sir Winston Churchill (Thunder Bay).
“This weekend is going to be all about putting kids out on the court and see who stands out above the rest,” Roen explained.
“One thing that we’ll also be looking at this week is how our setters perform as we don’t have anyone who is returning to that role on our team.
“But we are ready to work with the girls, and hopefully we can put them in a place where they will be successful,” he added.
The juniors, meanwhile, will make the trek to Dryden on Dec. 16-17 for a tournament that Cain expects to be a good one.
“Usually a lot of the teams will split their squads into two sides, and you get a mix of everything with teams from Ontario and Manitoba competing,” he noted.
“For me, I’ll be using that tournament to see who meshes well together during the weekend, along with making sure that everyone on the roster gets the court time that they need,” he added.