Summit High volleyball embraces new culture heading into coach Kelly Schneweis’ second year
BRECKENRIDGE — Two days before its opening game of the season, the Summit High girls volleyball team’s practice ended at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, but it wasn’t the end of the day’s work for second-year head coach Kelly Schneweis and a collection of Tiger freshmen.
For a full half-hour, Schneweis worked with the young players on their setting and hitting. A former All-American at Wichita State University, Schneweis knows how important repetition is in the game of volleyball. That’s why it was “music to her ears,” as she put it, when players decided to take her up on her optional post-practice sessions through preseason camp.
“I kind of made it an open thing,” Schneweis said. “If anyone wanted to stay late, I would stay for an extra 30 minutes, to work on things they are maybe not feeling as confident about.”
On Tuesday evening, the players Schneweis coached after practice were working on back-setting. It’s a difficult technique in volleyball, as setters mustn’t telegraph where their set will be directed. Dialing in advanced volleyball details like these gets Schneweis excited about heading into her second season as head coach.
The Tigers finished Schneweis’ first campaign with a 5-17 record, just 2-10 in the 4A Western Slope League. But last year couldn’t be more different than this year. A year ago, Schneweis was hired as head coach just a week before preseason practice began. She spent most of the time leading up to the first game of the season merely figuring out which players would be on what teams: varsity, JV and C team.
This year, Schneweis said the Tigers are at least two months ahead of where they were this time last year. With a strong, tough and focused group of returning players — eight seniors and four juniors — comprising the varsity team, Schneweis thinks the Tigers will surprise people this season.
“I had an opportunity to watch them all season last year,” Schneweis said, “and it gave me the opportunity to pinpoint things they could improve on and things they do very well. So I think this year, we are focusing more on — I don’t want to say individual improvement, but if you are solid as an individual player, your whole team is going to gel and benefit off of that.”
With the season slated to begin at 6 p.m. Thursday at Summit High School vs. Grand Junction, Schneweis said the varsity squad is figuring out its system and rotations. Though most every high school volleyball team’s strategy is predicated on passing and defense, the Tigers’ strategy this season will be even more so based on those two elements of the game. That’s due to their speedy and smaller makeup.
Schneweis said the team is much more athletic this season after a summer spent in the weight room. Schneweis credited the Summit High Athletics Department’s overall improved focus on weight training as a benefit to her team. Tipping her hat to Summit girls rugby coach Karl Barth, Schneweis said the volleyball program has taken after some of the outside-the-lines habits that have made Barth’s rugby program so successful.
Sept. 14: at Rifle, W, 3-2
Sept. 17: vs. Aspen, W, 3-0
Sept. 19: vs. Battle Mountain, L, 3-1
Sept. 24: at West Grand, L, 3-1
Sept. 28: vs. Palisade, 1 p.m.
Oct. 1: vs. Glenwood Springs, L 3-1
Oct. 3: at Steamboat Springs, 6:30 p.m. Oct. 4-5: Runner-up at Battle Mountain tournament
Oct. 8: vs. Eagle Valley, L, 3-1
Oct. 10: at Battle Mountain, L, 3-0
Oct. 17: at Glenwood Springs, L, 3-0
Oct. 19: at Palisade, L, 3-0
Oct. 24: vs. Steamboat Springs, L, 3-0
Oct. 26: vs. Rifle, W, 3-1
Oct. 31: at Eagle Valley, 1 p.m.
Nov. 2: at Golden tournament, TBD
When you combine the volleyball program’s summer of four days per week in the weight room with open gym volleyball sessions Tuesday nights, this has been a summer of an evolving, improved culture for the Tigers.
“They are excited to be in the gym,” Schneweis said. “They want to be here. They are playing hard. And they are tough. These girls are really, really tough.”
Schneweis said seniors Anna Confer and Christina Koetteritz have helped to instill that toughness in the program. Schneweis said Confer, a libero-type defensive player with a strong serve, has improved her jumping since last season. Koetteritz, who will play in the middle and on the right side for the Tigers, is moving quicker laterally and also jumping a lot higher after the offseason in the weight room, Schneweis said.
“Being in the weight room, I think a lot of time it is, like, a guy’s thing to do, not really for female sports,” the coach said. “But it’s moving in that direction.”
Schneweis said the varsity team most likely will employ a 6-2 formation built around a pair of setters in senior Kyla Hildebrand and junior Mackenzie Westonscow. Hildebrand has a penchant to play a physical brand of volleyball in that front row, where Schneweis said she’s showing tremendous leadership.
In the middle, though, the Tigers will miss departed senior leader Hannah Knickrehm from last season, Schneweis said junior Olivia Brewer is ready to step up in the middle hitter role.
In all, the Tigers will have 36 players split among the varsity, JV and C teams. Beneath them, Schneweis is even excited that her style of volleyball has been streamlined down to the middle school level.
“It truly is a change in culture,” she said.
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