Free State volleyball returns indoors to work on fundamentals during summer camp
photo by: Shane Jackson
This past week, Free State volleyball’s summer camp had to work around a few scheduling headaches and a class of more than 30 newcomers.
No big deal.
Last year, they didn’t even have a net.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the team out of its gymnasium in 2020, so the players had to move to a soccer field last offseason instead. This year, players and coaches alike were eager to get back on the hardwood.
“It’s been more refreshing than anything to be back doing things normally again,” third-year head coach Jayme Savage said. “It’s just been a blessing more than anything to be back here with everyone, working with the sport that we all love.”
Practicing on an actual volleyball court meant it was easier for the players to work on fundamentals. They focused on serving and passing, since those two skills tend to set the tone in a match.
“Last year, without the camp, it was definitely hard coming into tryouts,” senior Madison Beeley said. “I think this camp was a great way of getting to know each other and kind of see what it is going to look like this season.”
It was especially important this year with more than 30 freshmen getting their first taste of high school volleyball.
“We have seen substantial growth from our freshmen even in just a short amount of time,” Savage said. “They have come in with energy; they are coachable. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Some of the varsity returners weren’t around as much because Free State also had to work around club volleyball last week, but Savage said she wasn’t worried.
“A lot of our girls are going to nationals, so they are still practicing during the week and doing workouts on top of that,” Savage said. “Trust is essential and communication is essential. Those are two things we do very well here.”
photo by: Shane Jackson
This year’s team will feature plenty of veterans from 2020’s run, when the Firebirds made it to the Class 6A state tournament for the second year in a row. Last year was the first time that Free State had won back-to-back substate titles.
“Our team is pretty much returning,” senior Kenzie Marcum said. “We only lost two seniors, so it should be pretty easy. We are all used to each other.”
Sawyer Thomsen, Rylee Unruh and Aubrey Duncan are all back after strong sophomore seasons last fall. Thomsen and Duncan were both named to the All-Sunflower League first team after recording a combined 466 kills last year. Unruh had 665 assists and made the all-league second team. Junior Myla Nover-Estes and sophomore Fiona VanDyke are both looking to build on last season, as well.
Now, they’ll look to keep their streak intact with another state berth this fall.
“Obviously it’s great to go back to state,” Beeley said. “But, honestly, I think for a successful season, if we just put what we can out on the court, it will bring success.”