Goal: Bump record above .500 | SummitDaily.com

Goal: Bump record above .500

Janice Kurbjun
summit daily news

Summit Daily/Mark Fox

The Summit High School girls’ volleyball team wants to turn around its four-year losing record this season – and came close to doing so Thursday.

The team lost 23-25, 23-25, 21-25 to Conifer High School, but head coach Liz Hughes-Waddick said the players were within reach of a win.

“They really fought hard. We’ll work Saturday on how to close games, because they could have done it in every one of those games. They could have won. I was real proud of them,” Hughes-Waddick said.

After losing No. 1 and No. 2 setters (Brett Huntley is out with back issues until homecoming and Anna Zangari is out sick), senior Dakota Mendrick filled in during the Conifer match.

“She has never set for this team before,” Hughes-Waddick said. “I’ve never seen someone so calm and collected after being told they’re going to run the offense against a team like Conifer.”

Even amidst losing their top two leaders, freshman Lexi Zangari “did a great job on the outside,” Hughes said, and senior Sarah Metzger was “blocking out of her mind.”

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Conifer is historically a challenging team in the Jefferson County League. It typically finishes in the top five and players have good ball control, have height and fight. But Hughes-Waddick said it’s good to start with tough competition so she can see where the holes are and what needs practice.

The fight the players showed Thursday is what Hughes-Waddick wants to see in her volleyball team as it moves into the Western Slope League. She thinks it will be a good change for the team that hasn’t had a winning season in years. Last year’s record was 4-18.

“This year, we’ve got five returning seniors, four juniors, one sophomore and one freshman,” the coach said. “We’ve got a competitive group of girls who are competing for spots (on the varsity team), with two or three girls able to play three different positions. We’re a really deep team.”

Hughes-Waddick isn’t entirely sure what to expect from the new league, other than ideally more evenly matched girls from smaller communities similar to Summit County. The team has played Steamboat, Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley in the past – and Hughes-Waddick says all of them will be games to watch this year.

At a preseason scrimmage, the girls played Glenwood Springs and Eagle Valley. Hughes-Waddick said she was pleased with the team’s performance and hopes skills will continue to grow throughout the season.

One advantage is more players playing in the off season. At least seven girls are in Vail or Denver clubs, meaning the interest in volleyball is increasing lately.

Hughes-Waddick sees the keys to the season being ball control and foot work.

“You can watch a warm-up and see who’s going to win the game based on their ball skills and ball control,” she said.

She wants to focus on running a simple system at first and focusing on the fundamentals. The team’s game may change later in the season, but for now, Hughes-Waddick wants to basics to be strong. The coach is also focusing on defense. In practice, she wants her players to hit the floor and take a few bruises.

The team has height, with at least five girls between 5-foot, 9-inches and 5-foot, 11 inches. Like Raymond, who has reach and a 22-inch vertical – but who is working on getting used to hitting from the outside instead of the middle.

“She’s our tallest, strongest player and has worked very hard to get there,” Hughes-Waddick said. Lexi Zangari is also tall and through off season and preseason work, has earned a spot on the varsity team.

Though height is important, so too is being consistent and having a strong defense, the coach said.

“It’s going to take that defense and consistency in the offense so we’re not making the unforced errors that have plagued us in the past,” she said.

“Everything is set up” to be a winning team, Hughes-Waddick said, adding, “They’re going to have to work really hard to be that way. Volleyball is a competitive sport outside of Summit County. … They’re going to have to fight hard to have that winning season if they want it. But it’s there, if they want it.”

Today, the team plays in the Machebeuf Tournament, where Hughes-Waddick hopes several matches back-to-back will help the girls iron out any kinks before league play gets going.

“It’s a lot of time to refine skills and talk about our system and come out stronger,” Hughes-Waddick said.

The team’s home opener is 6:30 p.m. Thursday against Battle Mountain.

> Today – Machebeuf tournament

> Sept. 13 – Battle Mountain at SHS

> Sept. 15 – SHS at Steamboat

> Sept. 20 – Eagle Valley at Summit

> Sept. 25 – Englewood at Summit

> Sept. 27 – Palisade at Summit

> Sept. 29 – Delta at Summit

> Oct. 4 – SHS at Battle Mountain

> Oct. 6 – SHS at Steamboat

> Oct. 11 – SHS at Eagle Valley

> Oct. 13 – SHS at Glenwood

> Oct. 18 – SHS at Palisade

> Oct. 20 – SHS Tiger Invitational at Summit

> Oct. 23 – Glenwood at Summit

> Oct. 17 – SHS at Delta

> TBD – Regional, State competitions

> Rival: Battle Mountain

> Home match not to miss: 6:30 p.m., Sept. 20 – Eagle Valley; 3 p.m., Oct. 6 – Steamboat

> Players to watch: Middle hitter Sarah Metzger (Sr.), outside hitter Kates Raymond (Sr.), setters Brett Huntley (Sr.) and Anna Zangari (Sr.)

> 2011 record: 4-18

> Head coach: Liz Hughes-Waddick

> Years coaching: 5

> Team goal: Have a winning season.

No. Name Year

1 Anna Zangari 12

3 Kyla McCann 11

4 Dakota Mendrick 12

5 Davis Gidney 11

6 Madi Webster 11

7 Madison Jones 12

8 Sara Metzger 12

9 Kates Raymond 11

10 Brett Huntley 12

11 Taylor Bohlender 11

12 Brittany Berry 10

13 Charlotte Truesdell 12

14 Lexi Zangari 9