Volleyball doesn't start in August for Fort Calhoun's Pioneers.
“Well, we did team camps during the summer,” senior Maggie Theisen said Monday before practice at FCHS.
“We had a lot of girls doing club volleyball,” junior Ellie Lienemann added.
“Yep,” Theisen confirmed, adding that the Pioneers “all went to weights and conditioning,” too.
“And open gyms,” Lienemann noted, registering just how long their list had gotten. “You have to be committed.”
Every indication is that coach James Slie's volleyball team was this offseason. For instance, Fort Calhoun attended both University of Nebraska at Omaha and University of Nebraska-Kearney camps during the summer months.
“We learned how to cooperate more as a team,” Theisen said of the Pioneers' experience. “We'd only been playing against each other, so we got to play against other teams. We were able to learn more about how each other plays and how to play with each other as a team.”
But that was just bonus time in that regard. FCHS already returns seven players — Rianna Wells, Lienemann, Theisen, McKenna Greenwell, Madyson Back, Alivia Cullen and Kaitlin Smith — with starting experience after graduating just one senior in May.
“We have a connection,” Theisen said. That's what their summer together accomplished.
But the Pioneers were more than just focused on their team. Several players sought out additional playing time after last fall's season ended, acquiring that individual experience on club teams.
Lienemann, for example, made the Nebraska Elite National 2 Travel Team, which played in high-profile tournaments including the ASICS Junior National Volleyball Championships in Chicago.
Greenwell and Cullen also made a Nebraska Elite National team, while Wells proved her skills on a Elite Regional squad.
Back, meanwhile, joined another Omaha club outfit — Banzai Volleyball Club — to build-up her own potential as a standout senior player.
“I think the girls who went and played club grew a lot,” Lienemann said. “It's with different people and not just with the same people we play with during the season. There's a lot more things you can learn at club that you can bring back to Fort Calhoun.”
No. 1, she and Theisen want their summer camp and club work to help get the Pioneers back to their winning ways with a season record that includes more victories than defeats. They believe that's a strong first step. A five-set exhibition match against Class B Plattsmouth earlier this month furthered the girls' optimism.
“It was a very good game,” Theisen said.
“We played really well …,” Lienemann added, glancing over at her senior teammate and emphasizing her next words. “ … with our new offense.”
In total, coach Slie's Pioneers have a lot going for them as the season gets underway.
“It's still a young team, but, well, we have a lot of juniors,” Lienemann said.
“But you guys still have a whole other year,” Theisen noted. The senior has every intention of making this one count.