Posted 8/23/16 (Tue)
By Jody Michael
School has begun throughout North Dakota, and so has practice for the area high school volleyball teams.
The Jays only lost two players from the 2015 team that won a second consecutive appearance in the state tournament.
“We have four solid starters back, and four others with varsity experience and even some state experience,” coach Michelle Dolan said. “I saw some good things out of them under pressure, so I expect them to raise their game a little bit.”
Dolan is looking for a setter and a middle hitter to replace last year’s graduates but takes comfort in having three skilled seniors to lead the group.
“They’ve played for me since they were sophomores,” Dolan said, “and they’ve been through a lot of those five-gamers where they’ve been under pressure and come through.”
One thing Dolan said she likes about the younger players vying for a starting spot is how tall some of them are.
“We should have more height,” Dolan said. “I’m hoping our blocking game might improve.”
The Jays open the season Saturday at the Coal County Invitational in Hazen and Beulah.
After having been an afterthought in the district picture in recent years, the Pirates are working to make an impression this season under new head coach Kassidi Sibley.
“Already, the girls have grown immensely,” she said. “Practice is going very well.”
Success on the court will require just not individual skills but also good team chemistry.
“We needed to boost team morale,” Sibley said, “and there’s a lot of team spirit so far.”
Sibley said she sees a brighter future ahead for the Tioga volleyball program.
“There’s lots of young talent here,” Sibley said. “They’ve been working hard over the summer and in open gyms.”
The Pirates head to an invitational in Bottineau on Saturday and to Glenburn on Tuesday next week.
Dolan said her team has a lot to prove before it can consider competing for another region championship.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” she said. “Kenmare brought back a lot, and Powers Lake did as well, and Stanley always comes up with a good group.”
Sibley said she hopes the Pirates will be more capable of holding their own.
“I know a lot of our district teams lost their talent, and we gained talent,” Sibley said.