STOVER — The Lady Bulldogs volleyball team played the 2013 season with no seniors. While that meant a young group then, that means a veteran group now as Stover has seven seniors and enters 2014 missing no one from last year’s squad which went 22-10-2, falling in the Kaysinger Conference Tournament final and district final to Sacred Heart.
“I think the expectations are pretty high,” said senior Amber Engelbrecht. “We’ve all been together since sixth grade so we all know each other and how each other plays. We all expect a lot out of each other.”
Stover coach Carrie Hewett is seeing those expectations play out in practice.
“If it’s not a good pass, they want to repeat the drill,” she said. “They want to work harder and better at it.”
She said that focus has been there since the start of fall practice last week, especially on defense.
“They’re just starting to get to hit this week,” Hewett said. “We haven’t been the best passers in the past so they decided they were going to do it.”
Engelbrecht was an all-conference honorable mention in 2013 and returns as the Lady Bulldogs’ libero.
“She’s going to be running that left back position and she can flat out get to any ball,” Hewett said.
Hunter Miesner will also be a part of the Stover back line with sophomores Lacey Buck and Ashley Schroder in the mix for playing time.
Engelbrecht said the back line has shown a lot of improvement since the start of summer.
“We’ve been working on a lot of passing and we look 10 times better,” she said.
Also returning is all-conference setter Montana Boles and a pair of all-conference hitters; Carley Nolting and Mallory Uptegrove.
“Carley’s learned that she doesn’t have to go up and cream it every time,” Hewett said. “She’s being smart, she’s seeing holes and she improved on that all summer long when we were in camps.”
Uptegrove spent the summer working with a machine called the jumper as part of a seven-week program which added six inches to her vertical jump.
“It’s pretty old, it’s from the 80s, but my dad had it,” she said. “You squat with it and it’s weighted. You do that a bunch of times.”
With that added height — and Uptegrove was able to reach over the net to begin with — the Lady Bulldogs are working on a few different hits for her.
“We’re moving her around and just getting the ball up there and letting her hit it,” Hewett said. “She is speeding up her approach so she’s up there and Montana’s getting it to her.”
In 2013, Stover won its first seven Kaysinger conference games before falling to Cole Camp in two games and falling to Sacred Heart 2-1. Things don’t get any easier int he conference this year.
“I feel like this year it’s going to be harder than ever,” Hewett said. “Cole Camp has almost everybody back. They and Green Ridge and Sacred Heart are going to be tough. Northwest is going to be tough this year. The top four and five, it’s going to be all out.”
With that much depth throughout the Kaysinger, Stover knows it cannot take any nights off.
“We have to play every team all out like it’s going to be their last game,” Hewett said. “I think they’re going to be ready. I think the mental focus is definitely here this year.”