WP volleyball

“We have a mission this year. I think this group of girls, I feel like we finally turned a corner in this program,” Prep volleyball Coach Mike Kelley said. “We can all see it. It’s all in front of us. It’s just a matter of our commitment to doing it.”

(Sept. 9, 2022) Worcester Prep Coach Mike Kelley describes the girls on his volleyball team as prepared and focused.

“We have a mission this year. I think this group of girls, I feel like we finally turned a corner in this program,” he said. “We can all see it. It’s all in front of us. It’s just a matter of our commitment to doing it.”

Kelley has 15 players on his roster, and seven are varsity veterans. Despite only winning on match last year, the girls improved tremendously throughout the season.

“I’m excited. We’ve been putting the work in the last couple years now and it’s starting to really pay off. I think we’ve got a good, solid foundation,” he said. “We went to a play day a couple weeks ago, we had a tri-scrimmage up at Indian River last week and I feel like we’re already well ahead of where we were last year.

“With so many returning players coming in – we had a lot that went to camp this summer, some played club – and it’s really paying off,” he continued. “They’re ready to go and we’re hitting the ground running and looking good from day one.”

Kelley is confident in his players’ abilities and skills and that they will be successful on the court.

“For the first time since I’ve been here we have more than one girl that gets over the net. We actually have a legitimate front row with subs and the ability to play above the net,” he added. “We’ve got great passers that are playing the back row. For the first time I think we have players fulfilling a job duty on the team – maybe they’re a back row specialist, maybe they’re front row specialist – and so this is the most complete we’ve been. Were going to use nine, 10, 11 girls every single game at least and we have all the confidence in the world in putting any of them in.”

He will look to several girls to lead the team, including returning captain, junior Natasha Richter.

“She’s just an all-around fantastic player. Natasha leads by example, and because her dedication and her skills are unmatched,” Kelley said.

“I have [three years] experience and the coaches help guide me as well so it’s not just me [leading] by myself. I just want to help keep the morale up,” Richter said. “I love volleyball. We’ve definitely improved so much. We just need to talk and communicate more and just go after the ball and not be afraid of making mistakes … I want to win a few more games this year. I think it’s looking good. It’s going to be a great season.”

Junior Sara Freih will also have a leadership role as the team’s setter.

“She came in as a freshman and we were like, ‘just practice setting.’ She’s in her third year of setting for us and every year we keep putting more responsibility on her to make more decisions in the game flow,” Kelley said. “She worked really hard. She sets every single play and we’ve been accelerating her repertoire.”

Seniors Haris Gjikuria and Lorelei Campbell have been leading as well and encouraging their teammates.

Kelley said the goal this season is to hang a championship banner in the school’s gym.

“I’m a firm believer, I don’t believe in settling for lower goals because what happens if you reach that and the season is still going? Do you just pack it in and say we’re done? No,” he said. “Our goal is to be better than we were the day before and the ultimate goal is to be the first to hang a volleyball banner in this gym, because there’s not a single one.”

Since the program started in 2011 teams each season have struggled to win matches.

“We’ve never done more than one or two wins a season. I really feel confident that we’re in a position to win the [Eastern Shore Independent Athletic Conference] ESIAC and possibly win the tournament at the end of the season,” he continued. “We are capable. If we don’t do it it’s our own fault.”

Kelley said he is looking forward to a great season. The girls are excited to come to practice every day, he added, and they always want to stay late and continue playing.

“I always have to kick them out of the gym, and that’s a great sign. That’s a happy problem for a coach to have,” he said.

Worcester will host the Gunston School Herons on Tuesday at 4 p.m. in Berlin.

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