Shawnee Dispatch

MVHS volleyball still learning

Morgan Thomas floats a ball over St. Thomas Aquinas’ blockers on Saturday. Fay is trying to make Thomas a setter because of her quickness and high energy. Enlarge photo

July 13, 2014

Mill Valley High volleyball coach Debbie Fay, who is known as being intense and having high expectations, is having to tone that back a bit as she has only had this crop of Lady Jaguars for a month.

She hasn’t had these girls since their freshman year and they don’t know her way. Yet.

Fay expects a senior to know how to pass as she’s played high school volleyball for three years. However, Fay said this group of girls — not to their fault — aren’t where they need to be for their given age.

“Their strengths are their desire to get better,” Fay said. “Their strengths are the chemistry and the teamwork, as they genuinely want each other to get better. That’s good, but you still have to have that competition within. We have that as we’re all very similar in ability, so you never know which one’s going to be there. Eventually six or eight will rise to the top, but it’s going to take some time.”

So far, Alicia Pickett has established herself as the No. 1 middle. Fay said there are three others in the mix to keep her honest and make her work for it.

“She has some court knowledge and has some leadership skills,” Fay said. “I’m really trying to make her a court leader. She’s coming back as a junior, so she’s got two good years of play. She’ll develop into a strong kid.”

Fay said the biggest weakness right now is passing, which is the worst weakness to have, as it’s the first touch a team will make. It’s a big emphasis right now and said the players who learn it the quickest will see their game rise much quicker than the others.

Fay is trying to develop Morgan Thomas into a setter to replace Hannah Billings, who graduated.

Last season, Billings gave the hitters a nice ball to swing at, and right now, that’s not happening.

“She’s one of our quickest, high-energy athletes,” Fay said of Thomas. “I’m a believer in finding that on your team and you make them a setter. Because if they can’t run the ball, it doesn’t matter how good their hands are. The way we pass right now, I need somebody that can run down the ball.”

This weekend at Volleyfest at Okun Fieldhouse, Fay split up the girls into two teams. However, she didn’t separate the girls into varsity and junior varsity. Instead she tried to give each team a few veteran girls that she is trying to develop into court leaders.

“They’re not balanced, but I don’t know what balanced is yet,” Fay said. “The kids that have been to most of the stuff, I see more and then certain positions are a little more solid than others.”

Fay said there will be a fluidity to the varsity team and junior varsity team this year and for the years to come. It doesn’t matter to her if a girl is a freshman or a senior because, right now, they’re all equal.

In her mind, a junior or senior should have more touches, but that isn’t always the case. If a freshman comes in and is ready, Fay would take her, as she’ll have four years to play varsity.

“That might be something that’s a little tough for kids to swallow, but that’s how you build a competitive program,” Fay said. “They’ve all been aware of that from the get-go. That’s all part of the hard part of the game.”

Fay said the past month has been fun as the Lady Jaguars are learning a lot, but Fay wants to see them learn faster.

Most of the girls haven’t had varsity experience, so when a group of junior varsity girls stepped on the court Saturday against a group from St. Thomas Aquinas, who was 2013’s 5A runner up, Fay told them to not be scared.

“I said, ‘If you’re scared and want to watch, then you can go sit with your mom and dad or sit with me,’” Fay said. “It’s a different level and their eyes are being opened. The kids that want that challenge and are going to come in and fight are going to love it.”

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