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Truckee spikers are getting ready to take it to the net

JAMES BALL

“Pretty much everybody.”

That’s how Tahoe-Truckee High School volleyball coach Maggie Shane sums up the losses from last year’s graduation.

“I lost eight girls, my whole starting lineup,” said Shane.

This year’s team has three returning seniors, only one of whom, Shane said, has any accountable time on the court. That’s back-row specialist Jennifer Marks.

The other seniors played occasionally and were substitutes for most of the season.

“We’re going from a team last year with huge offensive skills to a team that’s just learning,” Shane said.

For now, Shane is content to work on defense, pointing out it is easier to wait for an opposing team to make a mistake.

The good news is the emerging crop of juniors, eight of them in all, who look to prove themselves this year.

Junior middle-hitters include Molly Major, Erin DeMont and Sarah Ford. Outside hitters include juniors Abbey Whitfield, Tessie Boreen, Stacey Stirtz and Shannon Russ. Seniors Katie Tierney and Marks also play the outside.

Sophomore Jasmine Eisenberg, junior Kendra Murphy and senior Nancy Brewer are positioned at setter.

Shane said she is focusing on player confidence at this point, saying the girls need to “stretch their comfort zones and get past the fear of hitting the floor or sacrificing themselves for a dig.”

The netters’ schedule is designed to be a little tougher this year to give the girls an early look at what they need to work on.

“I wanted to make sure the competition was more to their level or harder,” Shane said.

And so far, it has been brutal. In a tournament over the weekend at Lowery, the Wolverines finished seventh out of 10 teams, but Shane is not discouraged.

“The scores didn’t show it, but I would say they’re three-quarters of the way to becoming a good defensive team.”

The tourney featured big 4A schools from Idaho and Carson City.

“It was nice to see competition for a change,” Shane said. “The girls presented themselves really well.”

Shane said her goal for the team is to build a solid squad and, to help with this, the girls have been doing team-building exercises, something new for TTHS volleyball.

As for offense, Shane said the lack of big hitters will cause her to shift the focus to consistency and hitting the ball “smart.”

“Last year we had six big hitters,” Shane said. “Of course, it would be great to have a team of six-footers, but for as young as they are they are doing great.”

In both division play and in the post-season, the girls will have Hawthorne (a team full of six-footers) and Moapa Valley (defending state champions) on their minds.

“We can qualify for state if we work hard at it.”

Regardless of this year’s results, Shane has to know next year looks promising. Though she will lose Marks, her best passer, Shane said the core group will remain.

For the present, things are looking up.

“Two weeks ago at practice I would have said the team had a huge hurdle to overcome, but they’ve done a good job putting themselves together,” Shane said. “I’m really impressed with how far they’ve come along in just two weeks.”

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