By Garth Shanklin
The Batavia Lady Bulldogs won 14 games last season, including a postseason match, and now enter 2016 looking to build on that success.
They will do so under a new head coach, with Erica Thomas taking over in July to replace Kim McCarty. While Thomas has not been with the team for very long, she has already identified a pair of players who should step up and become leaders for the team this season.
“Our two middle seniors, Carly Werring and Madelyn Williamson, will step up to the leadership role,” Thomas said. “They are great motivators and constantly stay positive, no matter what is going on. They stay very aggressive on the net and make smart plays to keep the ball in.”
Thomas also added that the pair have been tabbed as the team’s captains this season. They will look to lead an experienced squad that will return seven total players.
“We have a lot of experience as a team,” Thomas said. “One of our setters from last year, Morgan Grant, has taken on a new role and is now our libero. So far, it has proven to be a great fit. Sophomore Ari Bell stepped in and took over [Grant's] position. She’s young, but hungry to gain the knowledge and ability it will take to play at the varsity level.”
Grant also was named a captain by her teammates, while junior Makena Knollman is expected to take over the team’s other setter position.
“[She] has great court awareness and works hard to make sure her hitters can be the best they can be,” Thomas said. “Trystan Norman could step up and be a dominant force on the right side this year with her hitting and blocking, while another senior Madison Switzer will provide a good block and aggressive plays at the net.”
Even with all the returning talent, the Lady Bulldogs do have a few new faces. Junior Rebecca Isbel is expected to be the team’s new outside hitter, while sophomore Brooke Meadors is also expected to see time at that spot.
According to Thomas, the squad is working on both aspects of serving, including receiving a serve.
“We need to serve aggressively and keep the ball in,” Thomas said. “We also need to be able to pass the ball to setter so we can hit. We are working very hard on letting the mistakes go so we can come back and get the next point.”
Thomas added she didn’t expect perfection from the team, as long as they were working hard to improve.
“We aren’t perfect,” Thomas said. “I don’t expect the girls to be perfect. I want them to have fun and try their best 110 percent of the time.”
Thomas said the team has two goals for the season: to come together as a family, and to build the program and bring awareness to the community about volleyball. The Lady Bulldogs will take their first step toward those goals in their regular-season opener on Aug. 23 at 6 p.m. against Felicity.