NEWARK – Ready or not, the season has started.
It has been a whirlwind first month for Watkins Memorial volleyball coach Kyle McFerin, but thankfully, he has some veterans to make it easy on him. McFerin was hired just before official practice began, and the transition has been as smooth as he could have hoped.
“I cannot stress it enough. The girls have been very receptive of me,” said McFerin, who previously was a varsity assistant for volleyball and basketball at Circleville. “I have tried to change the culture a little bit with a couple of different things. Communication is going to be key, and we are going to keep working on that like that every other program does.”
Having five seniors to lead a roster filled with two- and three-year varsity players should help. The Warriors’ growing pains from the previous couple years might be ready to pay off.
Watkins dropped three competitive matches to Division I opponents this past Saturday to open the regular season. The Warriors dropped a tough three-set match to Reynoldsburg before falling in two sets to Westland and host Westerville North. They began Licking County League play against Lakewood on Tuesday, and they host Heath on Thursday.
“I think we have some physically-talented ladies, but mentally, we are far from where we will be at the end of the year,” McFerin said. “Sometimes, we will play really good in stretches, and sometimes, we won’t play very good at all.
“We are just trying to get to that consistent level. You don’t need to play at your best level the whole time, but we need to close the gap between what our best is and what our worst is.”
Senior Shelby Seas and freshman Margaret Musselman are sharing the setting duties, allowing McFerin to keep the front line stocked with three offensive threats at all times.
Junior Liz Fafiade and sophomore Conley Day are strong players inside, and senior Morgan Fitch and junior Hannah Holton are among the outlets on the outside.
The experience is in the back row. Senior libero Kendra Lancia missed some time this past weekend because of injury, but she should back soon. Classmates Jamie Hammond and Torryn Hook will provide assistance.
“We are playing nine or 10 girls, and I don’t there is anytime where the six will have not played together,” McFerin said.
The key for the Warriors is to get contributions defensively from every player on the roster. The Licking County League has several powerful hitters, and it can become a shooting gallery without front-line defense.
“Something we have worked pretty hard on in practice is blocking and getting touches,” McFerin said. “One thing we need to do a better job on is knowing what’s going on on the other side like if they are going to tip or going to attack. We are a little slow on recognizing arm angles, but I feel like we are going to be a pretty good blocking team.”
Watkins had a slow start to its first year back in the LCL. The Warriors, however, finished strong, including earning a victory against rival Licking Heights.
Even through a summer of uncertainty, Warriors hope to have kept some of their momentum.