Wednesday, August 31, 2005

WRHS volleyball team has a new look

And a new strategy, using the libero for the first time

Express Staff Writer

If coach Tim Richards and the girls in the Wood River High School volleyball program learned anything last year, it was that the 4A Great Basin Conference West is extremely competitive—with little difference between the top three schools.

They also learned anything can happen, bad things included.

Jerome, Minico and Wood River were locked in combat all last season and preliminary matches in the league tournament all went to five games. Then, Wood River lost its captain and the league's MVP Rachael Richards to an injury. It made all the difference in the world.

Minico beat a stunned Wolverine squad in three games in the title match and earned its first state berth in eight years. The Spartans (11-12) went two-and-out at state in Idaho Falls. Wood River (19-16) saw its once-promising season end with a state play-in loss to Preston.

"We would have been in the state tournament if we hadn't lost our starting MVP," said last year's junior varsity coach Gary Carr, who will share the head coaching duties this season with fourth-year coach Tim Richards (71-45, 4-4 at state).

It's probably a good thing that Carr and Richards will put their heads together and co-coach the 2005 Wolverine edition that opened its 16-match, three-tournament schedule with non-conference matches at 3A Middleton Tuesday.

They'll have to decipher the new libero rule, which will be a learning experience for everyone. The libero is a designated back-row defensive player and ball-control specialist that can't be in the starting lineup. The libero even looks different, wearing a shirt that is the opposite color of the shirts worn by her teammates.

Strategically, what the libero does for coaches is give them a player who can be substituted with a lot more freedom. There is no limit to substitions for the libero. "It gives us a chance to get another person on the floor without using one of our 18 substitutions," said Richards.

Although Wood River lost league MVP Rachael Richards and honorable mention middle blocker Syringa Stark from last fall's regular-season league champion squad, the 2005 Wolverines have welcomed a tall and promising squad of 10 varsity players. In all, the turnout was 31 girls.

Coach Richards said, "We're young, but we had a solid turnout and they're working very hard." Carr added about the players, "Most are undeveloped at the varsity level, but we could show up and surprise a lot of people. We're playing the toughest schedule we've ever had and we'll just shoot for the end of season."

The senior co-captains, and the only returning varsity starters from last fall, are 5-9 Hannah Richards and 5-6 Jamie Stone. Richards made All-Great Basin first team last fall as an outside hitter. The third senior is Stefani Yates, a 5-4 libero.

Elissa Baker, Kelsey Lidstrom, Casey Vegwert, Leah McIlhenny and Jordan Scanlon are the five juniors on varsity. The sophomores are 6-2 middle blocker Lauren Morgenthaler and 5-11 middle blocker Hannah Ward, sidelined with a knee injury.

The coaches are encouraged about the height and ability of the junior varsity and freshman teams. Carr said, "We have a very talented and tall freshman class, and the sophomore class is the same way."

Coach Richards said the Great Basin West has improved. "Jerome has its best team ever and Minico has its three best players back. But we'll be able to maintain our solid, competitive program at Wood River. We have good balance—we hit and serve well and play good defense."

Wood River, which has won 18 district volleyball championships and made 19 state trips since 1977, will debut its home season with a pair of triangular meets against 4A and 5A teams next Tuesday and Thursday.

WRHS volleyball roster


Head coaches: Tim Richards and Gary Carr.

Co-captains: Hannah Richards and Jamie Stone.

Seniors (3): Hannah Richards, 5-9 setter/middle/outside hitter; Jamie Stone, 5-6 outside hitter; Stefani Yates, 5-4 middle/libero.

Juniors (5): Elissa Baker, 5-8 outside hitter; Kelsey Lidstrom, 5-11 middle; Casey Vegwert, 5-6 libero/defensive specialist; Leah McIlhenny, 5-11 middle/setter/outside hitter; Jordan Scanlon, 5-5 setter/libero.

Sophomores (2): Lauren Morgenthaler 6-2 middle; Hannah Ward 5-11 middle.


Head coaches: Xavier Beltran and Maura Capriati.

Sophomores (11): Hannah Gove 5-10 setter/outside hitter; Dani Stone 5-5 setter/outside hitter; Carly Ballantyne 5-7 setter/outside hitter; Currie Arnold 5-5 outside hitter; McKenna Murphy 5-8 middle; Heidi Bergt 5-6 setter/middle/outside hitter; Katie Pruett 5-6 outside hitter/defensive specialist; Wrenn Patterson 5-4 outside hitter; Dakota Orchard 5-4 outside hitter; Desi Peters 5-4 outside hitter/middle; Alissa Durkheimer 5-7 outside hitter.


Head coach: Anna Edwards.

Freshmen (10): Kaylee Baker, 5-7 outside hitter; Angela Coleman, 5-9 outside hitter; Sam Engel 5-9 middle; Sloan Brandon 5-6 outside hitter/middle; Allie Freund 5-4 setter; Hanna Gustafson 5-11 middle; Kylie Anderson 5-4 outside hitter; Haleigh Hall 5-6 setter; Shelby Grubbs 5-5 middle/outside hitter; Haley Johnson 5-10 outside hitter.

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