By Josh Hall (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Marshfield High School volleyball coach Kailey Bridges awarded members of her team points over the summer for volleyball-related activities they completed outside of organized practice. For instance, a pick-up game of sand volleyball might be worth a point.
The reward for the top three players with the most points? Not having to take down nets for a month.
Bridges even calls the “volleyball points” a little “silly” but it has reinforced what she has always thought about this year’s group – they don’t like to lose.
“I really, really appreciate their competitiveness,” Bridges said. “They like to be on top.”
Bridges pointed out a couple of games the Lady Jays let slip away late last year. She believes that is where that extra dose of competiveness and hatred of losing will be most beneficial.
“Last year, especially during our pre-conference play, we had a lot of games that we played right with teams until we were at that 20-point range, and then just couldn’t quite come out on top in those last few points,” Bridges said. “I think that competitiveness could be the difference-maker between all of those 50-50 games that could go either way when you have two really good teams competing.”
Marshfield will look to take a step forward this season after going 16-16-1 last year following a loss to Rogersville in the championship game of the Class 3, District 11 tournament. The Lady Jays also finished second in the Central Ozark Conference-Small behind Rogersville, which went on to finish third in the state.
Marshfield graduated five seniors from 2016, including first-team all-conference selection Savanna Vance and second-team pick Lydia McCall. The Lady Jays will be young going into 2017, but they do return five players who earned varsity letters last season.
Leading that group is Alexis Moon, who earned second-team all-conference honors after tallying 641 assists and 30 aces as a sophomore. Moon led the team in both categories the past two years, but the junior is moving to libero this season.
Emily Aldridge, a sophomore, was Marshfield’s 5-1 setter on the JV team last year and will start for the varsity team this season.
“(Aldridge) did awesome (at setting), so it just kind of made sense to move Alexis to that libero position,” Bridges said. “I think that’s what she’ll probably end up playing in college. She’s really good at it. Now that we have someone that can fill that setting role, we can finally move her there.”
Addison Crider, a sophomore outside hitter, is another returner after being the only freshman selected to the all-district team last year.
Emma Tibbs (senior RS) and Annie Gray (sophomore OH) will be Marshfield’s top newcomers this season.
Bridges noted Marshfield’s talented freshman and sophomore classes, and how players from those levels could compete at the varsity level, as well.
“I think it’s always important to have somebody below you kind of keeping you in check,” Bridges said. “It keeps your work ethic high and your competitiveness high. I think that’s exactly what a program needs.”