Underclassmen will be crucial to success
The Skippers will send a talented – but young – girls’ volleyball team into Division-I competition this season, according to coach Victoria Tefft. The coach is hopeful the squad will make its mark in the playoffs if they can overcome a lack of experience at the varsity level.
Tefft said the key will be to keep improving the skill level, especially in the early going when the underclassmen face opponents who are stronger, faster and more consistent than any they’ve played in the past.
North Kingstown opened up league play Wednesday night against perennial rival Prout. (Results were not available at press time.)
The 2012 Skippers have only two seniors on the roster: Amelia Wietman and Allison Barry. Both are from North Kingstown, and both were named the team’s cocaptains. But, Tefft said, they’ll have help leading the team, thanks to two other key players.
“Luckily, I have a couple of players who are really going to give us consistency,” she said, naming Alexandra Barton and Jodie Wadovick, both of North Kingstown.
“I call them the stabilizers,” she said. The team also has a young center: Amy Augenstein. “She’s done great,” Tefft said.
Jamestowner Kristjana McCarthy, a junior, is new to volleyball but has made the varsity team. Freshman Rachel Warner, also from Jamestown, will play on the JV squad. Rachel played league volleyball with The Blast. She is going to be the setter for the Skippers, and that’s a role she likes, she said.
Kristjana plays varsity basketball for North Kingstown, but this is her first taste of competitive volleyball. She said she played volleyball in gym class, but that is “completely different” than playing on a team. Kristjana said she does anticipate volleyball will help her basketball game, but she really went out for the volleyball team because she wanted to try it.
“It’s a whole new sport,” she said.
The newer players are getting valuable game experience during the practices, Tefft said, but they do have the athletic talent to be competitive. But no question, on experience, the Skippers are a little “behind the curve” when lined up against teams like East Providence.
“A lot of kids are playing year round now,” Tefft said. “They play in club programs. It gives them an advantage in understanding of the game and team skills.”
The Skippers have to make up that ground, she said, and the younger team members also must make the switch from the JV game to the varsity level.
“It’s a challenge,” Tefft said. “The whole tempo of game is different. The opponents are stronger. They hit harder. They return the ball faster. They’re more consistent.” Tefft said she is working in practice to speed things up, so the team as a whole is responding faster to game situations but within their skill limits. Tefft said she is taking care not to push them too hard.
“It’s a balancing act,” she said. “We’ll have a great season and see where we end up.”
Volleyball is a game of fractions of seconds, she went on to explain. The team that has the half-second edge is going to fare better than the slower squads.
In the early going, game tempo will be an issue for the North Kingstown High girls, Tefft predicted, and she is working on their reaction time.
At Tuesday’s practice, Tefft held up play for a minute to let the squad know she wanted to see more progress.
“You’re not getting any better at these practices,” she said. She urged the players to step it up if they expected to do well in the game Wednesday night.
But in an interview, she also acknowledged that she is pleased with what she has seen so far with respect to the team’s enthusiasm, energy and athletic talent.
“They have an abundance of energy and enthusiasm, and what coach wouldn’t be happy with that? The girls are excited.”
As for the playoffs, Tefft said that’s a goal.
“We always look for the playoffs,” she said. “We have a good rich history of competition.” The Skippers have won the state title six times since 1991, the most recent being 2006.
Last year they lost in the quarterfi nals after the team had the bad luck to draw the tournament’s No. 1 seed in the early going. Had they made it past that game, Tefft said, they might have come away with a trophy.
This squad is going up against some tough Division-I teams this season. They play both the north and south teams Division I, so they will take on East Providence and defending champs Coventry, as well as South Kingstown.
The East Providence game has also turned into a good rivalry, Tefft said. The Townies have won six titles since 2000.