Senior spikers stressing aggression

Dan Falloon

By the sounds of things, the Muskie senior boys’ volleyball team may never want to hear the word “aggressive,” or any of its derivatives, by the time they end their NorWOSSA careers.
Aggression is the mantra the team is preaching this year—and it clearly has paid some dividends as the NorWOSSA season hits its halfway point as the black-and-gold sit at 2-2 as they attempt to rebound from a winless campaign last year.
Fort High showed its fortitude last week with a pair of home matches against Dryden and Kenora.
Although the Muskies fell 3-1 to the Eagles here last Tuesday (Oct. 5), they were able to come up big in a comeback five-set win over the Broncos on Thursday.
After edging the Broncos 27-25 in the first set, Fort High narrowly dropped the next two by scores of 25-23 and 28-26.
But rather than throwing in the towel, the home side rallied with 25-18 and 15-10 wins to capture the match in the full five sets.
First-year head coach Allison Hyatt reminded her crew to keep pounding the ball down the Broncos’ gullets and Justin Anderson, in particular, took advantage, dropping a number of spikes into Kenora’s open court as the Muskies rallied.
“We reminded the guys ‘keep playing aggressive,’ and that was the only way we were going to win,” Hyatt stressed.
“We are a hitting team,” she added. “When we hit, we play well, so we just reminded them to be aggressive and play our game.
“They were very capable of winning the set, which they did,” she concluded.
Besides crediting Anderson with an outstanding game against Kenora, Hyatt also singled out the front row for some fine play close to the net.
“All of our front row players, like Jake Hawley and Chris Legg, were very good blockers [on Thursday], so that was definitely a strength of our game and we see them continuing to improve,” she lauded.
But Hyatt also has been encouraged by how the team seems to be forming a cohesive unit—a feature that was lacking somewhat in last year’s season of struggle.
“Overall, the whole team is just improving together, which is good,” she enthused. “Usually it’s individuals improving, but it’s our whole team improving as a team.
“Last year, they didn’t have a team aspect,” she noted. “This year, everybody works together. They all get along.
“It’s definitely a team, so that’s nice to see and I think that definitely contributes to their success.”
Although the offence is coming along nicely, so, too, has the ability to keep opponents off the board.
“We have definitely improved our defence,” Hyatt said. “Our defensive game, our blocking, and our back row defence have improved immensely.
“We don’t ever play their game. We always play our game,” she stressed.
Hyatt thinks the Muskies still have a ways to go before catching Dryden—a perennial NorWOSSA powerhouse in all levels of volleyball.
The biggest thing, not surprisingly, is staying intense and on the attack throughout the match.
“I think that staying aggressive and our mental game needs to improve,” Hyatt noted. “That just means overall being aggressive, which means being confident.
“They have to have confidence in themselves when it’s close games, or when we’re playing a team like Dryden and understand that they can beat them.”
The Muskies have taken sets in both losses to Dryden, and those little victories have provided Hyatt with a glimmer of hope that the Eagles may have a couple of cracks in their admittedly solid armour.
“They have a couple of very strong hitters, but our team just needs to play aggressive against them and continue to hit and continue to play our game,” she reasoned.
“When that happens, we won’t have a problem with Dryden.
“I think Dryden is very beatable and we just have to realize that. It’s part of our mental game,” she continued.
“We haven’t beaten Dryden in quite a few years, so that’s just one of our stepping stones that we have to get over.”
After helping out with last year’s senior boys’ squad towards the end of the season, Hyatt took a step up and assumed the head coaching duties this year.
Even though she’d spent much of her time coaching girls, she is getting a handle on the boys’ game in her first year as a boys’ head coach, thanks in no small part to assistant coach Duane Roen and the players in uniform.
“Duane Roen has been a lot of help,” Hyatt lauded. “There’s a good group of kids, which really helps.
“When you’re moving up to a level like that, into a group of kids that you’ve never coached before, the team that you come into really helps,” she stressed.
“That’s a credit to them and it just helps me do my job better.”
Hyatt has spotted some pretty vast differences in coaching the different sexes. The gameplay is quite different, but so, too, are other emotional factors between teenaged boys and girls.
“You’re dealing with different individuals. You’re dealing with different emotions,” she noted.
“It’s a different type of game completely.
“Boys’ volleyball is a lot faster and it’s a lot more about power,” Hyatt said. “Girls’ volleyball is finesse and it’s a little slower.
“With boys’ volleyball, rallies are kind of quick, and with girls’ volleyball, rallies are kind of long.”
The team resumed NorWOSSA play today (Oct. 13) in Dryden, then won’t see league action again until Oct. 26 in Kenora.
However, the black-and-gold will keep occupied with a couple of tournaments in their immediate future, first in Dryden this weekend and then to Winnipeg at the end of the month.
Hyatt is particularly excited about the Manitoba tournament and getting the chance to see a few new faces in action.
“There’ll be some new teams to see, which is nice,” she enthused. “Mix it up a little.”