It’s all business with a lot of smiling out on the Eagles volleyball court at Joseph Charter School. Long-time coach, Jill Hite, whose teams make regular state playoff appearances, watches her team with either a studious look or a smile as she joins in their occasional laughter.
The Eagles won the state championship two seasons ago and made it to last season’s quarterfinals before succumbing to league arch-nemesis, Powder Valley.
After nearly two weeks of practice, the squad is looking good on the floor and Hite already has 10 players for her varsity chosen, although two junior varsity players will rotate in and out of the line up each week. At this point, Hite has a total of 19 suited up.
The team lost a number of seniors from last season, including the loss of Emma Hite, Coach Hite’s daughter, who was also an all-state athlete. Other talented players who have graduated include Natalie Gorham, Sam McFarland and Kana Oliver.
“That whole group, their work ethic and attitude were amazing,” Coach Hite said of the departed. “Some of the hardest-working girls I’ve ever been around.” She added that others are stepping up.
One addition is sophomore German transfer student, Emma Alfert, who looks to make a few kills, particularly with her six-feet-plus height. Four freshmen will play JV. Two, if not three of the four, will contribute playing time on the varsity squad.
That includes freshman Maggie Miller, who’s been playing since third grade.
“I think my positivity will contribute a lot,” she said. “Also, my defense and experience will contribute.”
Despite the senior loss, Hite noted that this year’s squad is faster on its feet.
“Speed is probably the biggest factor,” Hite said. “Leadership is very strong with my seniors. They always step into that role, and most of the time, the seniors are my captains, and again, they have a great work ethic.”
Hite did say that the team needed to focus on two elements of the game.
“Serving and serve receive are always my two biggest things,” Hite said. “We were very strong servers last year, but this year we have a bit more to work on with serving. I like them to stay at 90 per cent, but we’re not there yet.”
Coach Hite said that fans can expect a treat this year when they come out to see the Eagles.
“I think they’ll see a very fast team,” she said. “I’m also hoping for a louder team. Communication is always key in volleyball and the more they work together, the better they’ll communicate.”
Senior Camille Crenshaw, echoing her coach, said she expects the squad to make a return to state this year.
“Honestly, we’re really, really fast this year,” she said. “I think just communicating and talking to each other and really being close this year is really going to get us far. As a whole, we work together and as long as we keep up the positivity we’ll be back there.”