New Arlington High School head volleyball coach Katarina Nelson wanted her team to accomplish one thing over every other during its Aug. 23 intrasquad scrimmage.
To build confidence.
“They're good. They just don't know they're good yet,” the 2002 AHS grad said. “I would hope that they take away that they're good. That last year's record doesn't matter.”
The Eagles struggled in 2018, but coaches — Nelson, Stacy Dunklau-Nelson and Cailyn Johnson — are optimistic that what the players are learning will lead to not only improved morale, but more on-court success as well.
“They're definitely sponges,” Nelson said. “They're excited to learn. Anything we teach them, they soak it in.”
Arlington graduated just one senior off of last year's squad, so a like-minded, experienced group returns this fall.
“I know change is hard for a lot of people, but they're embracing it,” Nelson said.
Two players who stood out during preseason practice were senior Lauren Clapper and sophomore Kate Miller. Both showed all-around volleyball ability, which could go a long way for AHS.
In addition to Miller, the coach was excited about her entire 10th-grade class. Chase Andersen, an All-Nebraska Capitol Conference performer, Kailynn Gubbels and Janessa Wakefield played varsity sets consistently a year ago.
The Eagles also return a productive senior class with Maddie Brennfoerder, Megan Green, Jenna Hoefs and Milee Young.
“They're pumped,” Nelson said of her team. “They feel that they've improved and that you can tell it. They're all-in, buying into the system. Everything we've been teaching is working, so then, of course, they believe in it even more.”
Arlington's players have been aggressive during practice as well — a good sign for their coaches.
But having a new system and coaching staff isn't just an adjustment for the girls wearing the uniforms. It also applies to the ones in charge. Nelson, in particular, had to get used to being back in her old stomping grounds.
“At first it was a little weird to be back, just because I'd been gone so long,” she said. “But because they're such a good group of girls — there's no mean girls, no bullies — they make my job easy. They want to be here, too, with just as much passion as I have. They have it, too.”