Volleyball season marked with ups and downs
It makes it a little better, De Soto volleyball coach Junelle Woolery said. Just a little.
The De Soto volleyball team rode a roller coaster season to an upset win in the first round of the sub-state tournament, then saw its season ended at the hands of Eudora -- or, more accurately eventual state champion Eudora.
The Wildcats didn't play their best volleyball in that final match, but Woolery said looking back, few managed to put together much against the Cardinals.
"Of course it makes you feel a little better when you lose to the team that wins it all," she said. "We still wanted to win, but my definition of success is whether you improve or not."
By that definition, and often by every definition, De Soto did that throughout 2006. The season may have ended against Eudora, but it was the match right before hand that Woolery said showed the team's real progress, and its potential for the future.
The Wildcats finished the year 17-19, but seemed destined to finish well below .500 as they stumbled through their first tournament of the season. De Soto lost four matches at the Sept. 9 Lansing tournament, and afterward had to take pushing a match against Spring Hill to three games as the most significant highlight.
The Cats weren't much better a month later as they again lost to Spring Hill in three games.
It all clicked at sub-state, however, and De Soto swept over the sub-state host Broncos in two games.
"We improved greatly," Woolery said. "We improved an immense amount from that first tournament to how we played at sub-state."
De Soto's improvement came in waves and increased steadily throughout the season, but the only constant was the team's play at home.
The Cats opened their season with three wins on their home court, then picked up four more in five late-September matches, notching victories over Frontier League foes Anderson County and Baldwin.
Another of De Soto's best swings came during its own SpikeFest tournament. The Cats opened the tournament with a two-game loss to Eudora, but reeled off three-straight wins. De Soto beat Baldwin, Basehor-Linwood and Jefferson County North to advance to the semi-finals of the 10-team tournament. The Cats fell to St. James, but rallied again and had Eudora on the ropes. De Soto fell by a narrow 22-25 margin in the first game, then took the second, 25-20, before falling in the third, 19-25.
"It makes you feel a little better to know you lost to the team that went all the way, but more because we competed against that team," Woolery said. "That says something about our heart and effort."
As for turning those highlights into real momentum as the team heads toward 2007, Woolery said she's optimistic -- cautious, but optimistic.
The problem comes in what De Soto will be without next season. Gone will be stat leader Jackie Goleman and a number of other key seniors.
Goleman led De Soto in kills with 94 -- good for sixth individually in the Frontier League. Lisbeth Rosales also offered a consistent threat as an outsider hitter, recording 31 kills. She was third on the team in kills and second in digs, with 44.
Christina Davis was one of the team's most consistent threats while serving, and was fourth in kills, notching 14.
Sydney Tenney, meanwhile, didn't load up with any of those stats, but played a vital role as the team's setter.
"We were very lucky this year," Woolery said. "I had great, supportive parents, and the kids were great and the assistants were great.
"We definitely are going to lose some talent and some leadership, but this group of seniors has done a good job of grooming and teaching the kids what hard work is and what leadership means."
The top returning Cat will likely be Kayla Bader, who was second on the team with 42 kills, but De Soto will also welcome back the services of Carlie Burnett, Amber Laudick and Danielle Price -- all of whom picked up experience in 2006.
However, Woolery said continuing the team's progress in 2007 won't exactly come down to who is coming back and who isn't.
More important is what those coming back and those who will get a first shot at varsity do with the 10 months between and the start of practice.
"As a team we improved this season, so I would consider that a success," Woolery said. "The big piece, we're going to need to have some weights and summer workouts so we don't fall back. We need (to do that) to compete.
"We can compete and hopefully make it out of sub-state next year. (The girls) have seen the competition and doesn't get any easier. So we'll have to continue to improve. The talent's there, it's just putting in the system and learning how to work together."