EYES ON VICTORY: Rams volleyball takes aim at quick start, winning season
By BRANDON HURLEY
Slow starts can often lead to crippling outcomes, especially in this climate. If the Greene County volleyball team hopes to shake loose of a significant string of losing, it begins with victories.
A fairly simple recipe, one may assume. But, establishing confidence in high school athletics can mean the difference between a bottom of the barrel finish and a shot at a conference title.
As Greene County head coach Chris Heisterkamp begins her third year at the helm of the Ram volleyball program, winning becomes priority No. 1. No longer will slow and steady progress be enough. The Rams have not produced a winning record since the 2011 season, a span of 9 years. The Rams did significant strides last fall, securing 12 wins, the best win total since Greene County won 16 games in 2015. Last year was a solid appetizer, this fall begs the girls to dig into the main course. It’s time to turn the page. The blueprint to triumph requires a number of aspects working together as a whole, Heisterkamp said.
“We need to be a team that has No. 1, a strong start, No. 2, a steady fight that maneuvers through all the ups and downs in the middle and No. 3, a tenacious finish that just won’t give up,” Heisterkamp said. “We can’t settle for having one or two of the three, but we need the focus and fight at the beginning, middle and the end. We have great girls in our program, so if they continue their hard work to improve, show up ready to battle, and connect as a team, we’ll have a season that all can enjoy.”
Greene County’s presence at the net should should be its strong suit this fall, Heisterkamp said. The Rams have zeroed in on the importance of altering shots, which often opens up more opportunities to score. Attacking is another area of emphasis as well, the coach said. Settling into a comfortable rhythm can mean the difference between a three-set victory and a demoralizing, five-set defeat.
“We’ve had more blocking action than in the past. Even in practice, girls are challenging one another and they’re having to work hard to get hits through,” Heisterkamp said. “I think once our offense gets in the flow, we’ll see some great hits from our front row players. We’re trying to develop a variety of attacks, and not just fall into the same predictable pattern. It takes a little while for the setter and hitters to get in the groove, but it’s getting better and better every day.”
The Rams do have a fairly significant stable of returning athletes to fall back on, including senior Brianna Osterson, who led GCHS in kills with 166. In fact, the Rams return their top two hitters from a year ago, as Lilly Muir readies for her senior year after tallying 146 kills. GCHS must replace Aubrey Heupel, who recorded more than 1,000 assists in her career, though the Rams will have access to several worthy replacements.
Serving should be an early pride point as well, with Muir and her team-leading 27 aces back again. Osterson recorded 22 aces last fall while then freshman Katrina Heupel maintained a 93.3 serve percentage to go with 12 aces.
Defensively, Osterson recorded 122 digs (second on the team) while Muir tallied 95 of her own. The return side of the ball is where Heisterkamp believes the Rams can make the biggest leap. More purposeful and enthusiastic movement will be a key area of focus, the coach said.
“We’ve not been fast enough on tip coverage,” Heisterkamp said. “We seem slow to react to the setter dumps, and off speed tips or rolls that drop in. We’re going to have to get better at reading the play and responding quicker to the unexpected. Every play, there’s something for all six to do on the court, so we’re learning our roles and identifying responsibilities.”
Greene County opened the 2020 season with a triangular sweep on the road Tuesday night, knocking off Collins-Maxwell and Glidden-Ralston by matching scores of 2-1. The Rams outlasted C-M by a first set score of 25-16, falling 25-17 in the second set before recovering for a convincing 15-4 win in the tiebreaker.
The Rams followed that stellar performance up with a hotly-contested victory over Glidden-Ralston in the night cap. GCHS won the opening set in a 26-24 thriller, dropped a narrow 25-21 battle in the second set before prevailing in yet another toe-to-toe competition in the third and final set, 15-11.
Greene County stays on the road Thursday to take on St. Edmond in Fort Dodge. A delay in construction of the new high school gym has pushed back the Rams’ home-opener. They will not play in Jefferson until Thursday, Sept. 17 when they host South Hamilton. The delays also forced a postponement of Greene County’s home tournament, which has been moved to Saturday, Oct. 2.
2020 volleyball schedule
- Home games are in bold
6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27 - at St. Edmond (Fort Dodge)
7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 8 - at PCM (Monroe)
6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10 - at Roland-Story (Story City)
9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 12 - at South Hardin (Tournament)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17 - vs. South Hamilton (Home)
5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22 - at South Central Calhoun (Rockwell City)
4:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 28 - at Roland-Story (Story City)
6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 29 - at West Marshall (State Center)
5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 1 - vs. Ogden, SEV
9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 3 - Home tournament
6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8 - at Nevada
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 13 - vs. Saydel (Senior night)
9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 17 - at Winterset (tournament)