When the Holtville volleyball team takes the court for the first time this season, there won’t be many familiar faces on the team.
Holtville graduated nine seniors from last year’s squad and returns only one player to its varsity team - lone senior Rylee Henus. The rest of the varsity team hasn’t been decided yet, but only two juniors are on the roster.
The rest of the team consists of freshmen and sophomores.
Head coach Alison Franklin, who is entering her fourth year as head coach, hopes to get her varsity and junior varsity teams sorted out by the end of the first official week of practice.
Volleyball teams statewide are allowed to begin practice on Monday, Aug. 2.
“Deal No. 1 is going to be figuring out which players are on varsity and which are on JV, and then we have to figure out which of those players will put us in the best spot,” Franklin said. “I’m looking for two middle hitters and two outside hitters who are going to work their tails off.”
Henus, who played as one of the team’s middle hitters last season, is the only player with any varsity experience on the team. And although she is the lone returner, she could see a position change this year.
Henus is listed at 5-foot-9 and was one of the two tallest girls on last season’s Holtville squad, but she is not expected to be the tallest again this year. Franklin said there are a few girls in ninth and tenth grade who can bring more height to the team.
But even if she isn’t the tallest and does make a position change, Henus will continue to serve as the team’s leader and help push each player around her to be the best they can be.
“It’s exciting to bring some height to the team, but yeah, Rylee just works really hard and she just makes everyone around her work that much harder,” Franklin said. “She is very charismatic. The girls really love and respect her. She’s the workhorse and she doesn’t mind pushing the girls to the left and the right of her to give it their best.”
Around Henus will likely be a large group of sophomores who only have one year of experience playing junior varsity. After last year’s team was one of Franklin’s most experienced teams in her career, this season’s will be one of the least experienced.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, as Franklin said she enjoys having a young or inexperienced team. Sometimes even more than having a really seasoned group.
She said inexperienced and young teams are more likely to try and make big gains throughout the year, and they work harder and listen more due to trying to learn the game more.
She’s seen that this summer as they’ve gone through workouts, and she’s excited to see more when the team takes the court for practice next week.
“I love the younger kids who are really aggressive and excited and they’re eager to please,” Franklin said. “And they learn and listen and try to do. So I’m excited about our younger bunch.”
Holtville didn’t have the success it wanted to last season, but Franklin is hoping her squad can get back to the level of success she found in her first year as head coach in 2018. That year, Holtville won 11 games and clinched a super regional berth.
The first step toward achieving that goal of success will come on Aug. 24 when Holtville opens the season on the road against Wetumpka.