A young Lady Lions volleyball squad anchored by three seniors will hope to take the next step in 2019 and qualify for the district playoffs.
While coach Christine Scott did say making the playoffs was the team’s goal this year, she also put it more simply:
“Our goal is always to be better,” said Scott, during the team’s practice Aug. 28 in the Liberty Bell High School gym.
About 20 girls turned out for volleyball this year, enough to field varsity and junior varsity teams. Among those returning to the varsity squad this year are seniors Hannah Bakke, McKenna Ott and Hailey Damman.
Ott will patrol the net as one of the team’s big hitters. Damman is a setter, and coach Scott called Bakke a utility player.
“We can plug her in anywhere, which is great,” Scott said.
Scott likes versatility in her roster. Unlike some teams, the coach will go with two setters: Damman and sophomore Jadyn Mitchell.
The setter literally is the pivotal player on any team, a position Scott referred to as the “quarterback.” If all goes right on a given play, the setter is the second player to touch the ball. Her job is to set up the hitter for the kill.
Scott, in her fourth year as the Lady Lions’ coach, has been with her core of seniors since they were freshmen. This continuity may help the team’s leaders carry the team further than they went last year, but the Lions still are young. Behind Bakke, Ott and Damman are four juniors and seven sophomores.
“They’ve been doing wonderfully and stepping up tremendously,” Scott said of the younger players.
After watching the group develop during time spent in the gym over the summer, Scott said she is even more optimistic than she was at the end of last season. The Lady Lions finished 2018 with a win to finish 4-4 in league, one win shy of districts.
“I’m very excited,” Scott said.
Before league play begins in October, the volleyball team will face what could be a defining challenge on Sept. 28 at a tournament hosted by Quincy High School. Quincy is a 2A school, and some 1A programs also will be there. As measured by enrollment, Liberty Bell is one step down from 1A, at 2B.
Sometimes, Scott said, the relatively inexperienced Liberty Bell squad can be intimidated against a known quantity such as Brewster. (The Lady Bears were undefeated in 2B league play last year.) But going up against the unknown in a tournament can bring out a certain kind of fearlessness that Scott wants to encourage.
“I like to see which girls rise to the challenge,” Scott said. “We played Quincy last year. They were big, and they hit.”
The Lady Lions open the season Tuesday (Sept. 10) in Waterville. Their first home match is at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 16, against Oroville.