ST. GEORGE – The word Pine View’s volleyball team members keep using when referring to their upcoming season is “improved.”
After several down years, the Panthers are trying to build girls volleyball into a contender.
“My team has improved a lot,” PV senior Kate Nelson said. “I think this is our year. We’ll be able to go further than we have in the past.”
Year one under new coach Kelly Murdock last season was a step in the right direction — an improved record from 2012.
The Panthers felt good about where they are heading into the second year, as most of their returners have varsity experience, but then they suffered a major setback when the Panthers’ returning starter at setter suddenly moved away. Nevertheless, the Panthers are optimistic that they will be an improved side this year.
“We’re starting off better this year than we did the year before,” Murdock said. “We’ll have to see if we can come together.”
Therein lies the key. With just three returning seniors, the Panthers are a young bunch with several of the returners playing in new positions. The challenge so far has been learning to play together.
“We’re trying to come back together,” Murdock said. “Right now, we just need to gel as a team. We have strong individual athletes, but we just need to come together as a team.”
In such situations, the seniors are expected to lead the team. Pine View’s seniors this year are: Brooklyn Bracken, Nelson and Haley Peterson.
Bracken is making the switch from outside hitter to libero.
“She’s a great leader on the court,” Murdock said. “She’s changed positions multiple times, so she’s a versatile player.”
Bracken originally began her career as a setter before moving to outside hitter. The change to libero came during club season.
“It’s so much more fun,” Bracken said, “I really enjoy it.”
Nelson is also making a shift, moving from middle blocker to outside hitter. Like Bracken, this switch came about during club season. For Nelson, it’s a return to the position she originally played.
Peterson will be the Panthers’ other outside hitter, after missing all of last year after having knee surgery.
Tosha Fiame will be Pine View’s opposite this season.
“She’s a tall, strong left-handed player,” Murdock said. “She’s a great passer, just an all-around great player.”
Sophomore Cassidy Murdock will take over the setter position this season, a year earlier than expected. Playing such an important position, she will have to get acclimated to varsity quickly.
“She’s young, but right now, she’s the one leading the way,” coach Murdock said. “We’re hoping she can handle the responsibility. She’s got a very strong attitude and strong work ethic.”
“I think she’s really good,” Nelson said of Cassidy Murdock. “She’s got a lot of talent for being so young. Being a new setter, it’s new, but it’s going good. We’re getting into it.”
Coach Murdock said her team has a strong junior class. They will be looking to those juniors to play the middle blocker positions. Megan Hintze, Morgan Jones and Cierra Costa will platoon the two middle blocker slots.
“Our middle blockers are great,” Nelson said. “They are really tall, and they are good at getting a block up.”
With the talent they have returning and the improvements they have seen, the Panthers are optimistic.
“We’re doing awesome right now,” Bracken said. “We’re really improving, especially from last year. It should be a good season.”