July 31st, 2018

Tough Valkyries prepared to not back down

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Conor Revell

Managing Editor


Tough Valkyries prepared to not back down
Sacred Heart's volleyball team is preparing for the upcoming season / photo by Conor Revell

Toughness.

Sacred Heart head volleyball coach Brett Versen has stressed that throughout the entire preseason and will continue to preach that during the season.

“We’re really been emphasizing toughness,” Versen said. “It’s about doing the little things and being tough. We have to get to the right spots and make smart decisions and everyone being on the same page. We need to do that in order to be successful. We are looking for a little bit more toughness.”

The Valkyries have a goal and it’s the same one every season, that’s to win a state championship.

“One of the main things coach has been focusing on is having toughness,” senior Olivia Fogo said. “Be a tough player and be a tough team. That means we have been focusing on developing our mentality and not going into games fearful.”

But, like every year, there are some new faces, and some have graduated such as star setter Abigail Westenhofer who is now at Indiana University.

“She has made a big impact the past few years,” Kristen Clemons said. “But, we have three setters that will play a key role and will do just as great of a job.”

The good news is that only five seniors graduated last year and only three were starters meaning Versen’s squad is quite experienced.

Instead Versen will rely on Clemons, a  junior middle blocker, Fogo, a senior outside hitter, and senior defensive specialist Mallory Lipski.

“As a senior I have to be a leader on and off the court for the underclassmen,” Lipski said. “I also hope to have a big part in the back row and get the ball to my hitters and passers.”

Emily Arnold, Taylor Eiset, and Skylar Singleton will compete for the starting setter job.

“We’ve got nine seniors and a number of them played a big role for us last year,” Versen said. “Abigail played a big role for us last year. The setting position is what we’re still trying to figure out. We have several great setters that will fight for that job.

“Emily got some playing time last year, Skylar has done some great things, and Taylor Eisert is looking pretty good too. It’s hard to pinpoint one right now. They’re all doing great right now and coming together as a whole and are showing that toughness I’ve been talking about.”

With nine seniors, Sacred Heart has the mindset that anything can happen and will be gunning for Assumption.

“I think we have to come together on and off the court and build our team chemistry,” Lipski said. “I think we have the potential to prove a lot of people wrong if we work together.”

Of course, the girls in maroon are the Valkyries archrival, and the defending state champions.

Sacred Heart will see Assumption Aug. 29 and again on Sep. 22, the two will almost certainly meet again in the Seventh Region Tournament come October.

“We still need to work on our Xs and Os and getting our strategy down,” Versen said. “We need to get the younger girls more comfortable with the focal points we’re bring on them. They had a lot of success in their club seasons and played at a high level. We just have to get them comfortable and fine tune some things.”

With the Breeders Cup being held at Churchill Downs this year, the KHSAA was forced to move up the volleyball state championship a week earlier.

That means the Valkyries won’t be traveling to Phoenix this year for NIKE Nationals and instead will travel to Knoxville, Tenn. to play in the Showdown at the Sunsphere.

“I think I have to do a good job of communicating and be a leader at the net,” Clemons said. “I have to make sure everyone knows what they’re supposed to do and that they’re doing the right thing.”

Sacred Heart will play in the Louisville Volleyball Invitational Tournament in September and then the Durango Classic in Las Vegas, Nev.

“We need to have no fear going into the season and believe in ourselves,” Fogo said. “This could be our year and we have to always be prepared for what is coming.”

All this to prepare and try and get back on top just as it happened two years ago.

“I love how this team has fun,” Versen said. “They compete at a high level and have fun doing it. They compete in practice. It makes the double sessions and challenges more fun for me because you can push and challenge them. They all have a smile on their face and push though it together. I think that’s what different about this team from some of the others I have had.”

The Valkyries open their season at Christian Academy Tuesday, Aug. 14th. The match is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

 

 

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