HURRICANE – The champs are back, but they have a different look in 2014.
Hurricane volleyball lost eight seniors from last year’s championship team, so head coach Daniel McKeehan said this season will be a learning experience.
“We bring back some really good players, though,” McKeehan said. “We had a strong JV team, so like always Region 9 volleyball is going to compete at the top of the state. We would it that we’re no different this year. We expect to be right there.”
All-state setter Addie Edwards and all-state libero Hannah Rich both return to the 2014 season in Hurricane’s quest to repeat as champions.
“We’ve got a new team,” Rich said, “and we’re going to do our best with what we’ve got. Always our goal is state, so that’s what we’re focusing on, but we’re excited to get to know each other better and come together as a team.”
Edwards said coming off a state championship but having mostly new players means improvement is even more important.
“We can’t get comfortable,” she said. “We have to work harder and harder each day.”
Edwards said being a leader to the new varsity players means she needs to be patient and help them grow, but also let them know the expectations inside the program and how to live up those expectations.
“We expect a lot of them,” Edwards said. “It’ll be good to see how they improve.”
Rich said last year’s team had played together for so long that the chemistry level was high enough for them to win the state championship, and now building that chemistry all over again and in a shorter amount of time provides its own challenge.
“We’re younger,” McKeehan said. “Instead of having five or six juniors to come in, we have five or six sophomores in there. The learning curve for our sophomores right now is huge. Trying to keep the level of play up in practice is difficult because there’s all-state level kids here and sophomores trying to develop and learn there.”
Hurricane had a summer tournament to help see things right away that it can work on, and McKeehan said that would give the team a bit of jump-start to the season.
“I hope we receive as well as did in our summer tournament,” he said. “We played some really good teams and finished in the top seven at the UVU camp with some big-time programs. We received the ball very well. I’d like to see our hitting percentage increase, but our receive was good, our defense was and our serving is always a staple of Hurricane volleyball. We can always serve and terminate from the left side.”
Edwards said she’s excited about the challenge of trying to come together in a short amount of time to make a run at another championship.
“It’ll be fun to see how our team can come together,” she said, “especially since we lost so many, to see how these younger girls will play.”
The first state championship rematch of the season between Hurricane and Desert Hills takes place on Sept. 11 in Hurricane. The next one takes place Oct. 7 at Desert Hills High School. However, both teams will run out with fairly new lineups.
Follow Richard Briggs on Twitter, @BriggsRich.