by John Unrein
Attending a Grain Valley Eagles Girls Volleyball practice is a loud experience. Communication is present on both sides of the net along with cheering in celebration when something positive occurs. The Lady Eagles will be a young team with only a few returning starters. Among those with experience is Senior Setter Jessica Slater.
Slater is quick to identify what she loves most about volleyball. “I love the team being together as one. Working for team goals helps create a better bond between us,” Slater said.
Being a setter comes with important fundamental responsibilities on the court. The setter is typically in charge of the offense through setting up the ball for their teammates to attempt a spike. This is a challenge that Slater embraces.
“The setter will always touch the ball. She’s going to be second in line to get the ball all the time. That’s kind of her job. She has a responsibility of being the team leader and someone that everyone can look up to,” Slater said.
Slater understands and accepts her leadership role with the team. “Being a senior means being there for all the underclassmen. Making sure they feel at home and comfortable. Teaching them the boundaries of volleyball and how the game’s played is important as well as being someone that they can look up to,” Slater said.
Eagles Head Volleyball Coach Kelsey Carver is in her second year with the program after serving as the junior varsity coach last year. This is not her first tenure as a head coach, after previously serving in that role at Clinton High School for three years prior to coming to Grain Valley. Carver was quick to offer praise for Slater.
“Jessica is a solid kid. She’s consistent and we can rely on her. Her levelheadedness keeps the team together pretty well.”
Carver also has a plan for how her team will attack the second year of competing in the Suburban Conference. A big part of that blueprint will be a fast tempo offense.
“We worked a lot last year on speeding up our offense. Playing these bigger schools, they run a quicker offense. Running a slow offense against them allows their defense to be successful. We have worked very hard throughout the summer on running quick sets. Having a quicker offense will pose a challenge for our opponents,” Carver said.
There are advantages that may come with a quick offense. Various NCAA volleyball coaches, along with Coaches Choice Coaching Forum, have described fast tempo sets as being difficult to defend for both front and back row defenders.
They go on to explain that teams who develop the ball control needed to run fast-tempo sets will find themselves hitting quite often against zero or one person blocks, giving the offense a clear advantage. Even if there are two blockers, to get a well-formed block over the net, the blockers must correctly guess where the set is going to go. A quick offense has the potential to be exciting and entertaining for both players and spectators.
Carver is confident that her team will be able to compete in the Suburban Conference this year. “I would like to be in the top of our conference, and I believe we have the potential to do that. Being solid and prepared for the beginning of our conference schedule is what we are shooting for.”
“I love watching our team and kids get better. Seeing improvement regardless of whether we win or loss in big moments against good competition where the kids really have to fight is rewarding,” Carver said.
Eagles Volleyball opens their season on Tuesday, September 10th at home against Blue Springs South.
Grain Valley Eagles varsity team prepare for season opener on September 10th vs. Blue Springs South.
Photo credit: Valley News staff