(Aug. 30, 2019) With so much talent on the Stephen Decatur volleyball team, Coach Sara Patrick said the girls are pushing each other to get better and stronger.
“We have depth. There’s some good, healthy competition,” Patrick said. “The girls have to fight for their positions. It’s a good environment. They’ve been working a lot harder.”
Patrick, now in her fifth year as coach, has 13 players on her roster. Six competed last year, when the team went 6-10. The season ended in the second round of playoffs.
Patrick said she will rely on her four senior captains – Jaclyn Gallagher, Mae Purnell, Summer Vorsteg and Lauren Kennard – for leadership.
“Our strengths are going to be our seniors, our leadership from them, and just the number of players we have will allow us to utilize our talent better,” she said. “We’ll be able to move people around.”
Purnell, an outside hitter, received Bayside South Honorable Mention accolades for her performance during the 2018 season. She has been a member of the team for four years.
“I’ve played every single position for hitting, so I’ve played middle, right side and outside, so I feel collectively with knowing each position on the court and knowing how it is to be in everyone else’s shoes will help me lead the team,” Purnell said. “I would say compared to past years we have a very strong group this year for preseason.”
Patrick said Purnell is a strong hitter and a consistent passer.
“She’ll play all around – back and front row. She’s our go-to this season,” Patrick said.
Gallagher will take the court as a setter.
“She’s a strong setter. She moves the ball well, but we can also use her as a hitter,” Patrick said.
“As a setter, I’m hoping I can make a lot of plays leading to a lot of points, hopefully translating to wins,” Gallagher, a three-year player, said. “We’re trying to really build a good foundation and for us who have been on the team multiple years to be good leaders and bring up the intensity this year.”
Junior Brooklyn Pugner will also set. She will play all around the court and set when she’s in the back row. Patrick said Pugner is a strong player and always positive on the court.
The team is starting on a high note. Patrick said she has seen some good things during their scrimmages and the girls are coming together.
“It’s probably one of the strongest teams we’ve had at the beginning of the year,” Gallagher added. “We’ve already seen a lot of improvement and a lot of strength in the new players and the returning players have really improved.”
Patrick said several newcomers have stepped up to fill open spots on the court, including sophomore Elizabeth Meyer.
The transfer from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, will be the team’s libero, or defensive specialist.
Sophomore Logan Patrick, who was on JV last year, also joins the team and will play in the front row.
Coach Patrick said the players sat down the second day of practice and set multiple team and individual goals for the season.
“The main goal is to play as one unit instead of six individuals on the court,” Purnell said.
Patrick said communication is also key, which is something the players have struggled with in the past.
“We need to communicate better on the court, call the ball and pick each other up,” she said.
She also wants the girls to play smart and be proactive and more in control of the ball, rather than reacting to what the other team is doing.
Transitioning from the net is also something the Seahawks are working on.
Patrick said she is pleased with the team’s serve percentage. The girls are starting the season making 88 percent of their serves.
“Hopefully we can continue with that,” she said.
Patrick is excited to have the HUDL program, which provides video review and performance analysis tools for sports teams. The Stephen Decatur Athletic Boosters helped fund the equipment.
A camera has been mounted in the gym, which will record all of the team’s games.Patrick will then receive match analysis and stats through the program.
Portable iPad and tripod sets are available for all teams, she said. Patrick plans to take one to away games.
Decatur’s first game is Friday, Sept. 6 against the Parkside Rams at 5:30 p.m. in Berlin.