Prep Volleyball: Defending GISA champs Trinity Christian now wearing bullseyeBy CHRIS GOLTERMANN
Trinity Christian players are aware that they’re wearing more than a number on the back of their volleyball jerseys this year.
After staying under the radar for most of the 2011 season, the defending GISA state champions won’t have a chance to sneak up on teams as much as it was able to last year.
“We’ve got a big bullseye on our back,” Trinity Christian coach Joe Camp said. “Everybody wants to beat last year’s champion. We have five seniors and they’re all battle-tested. Four of them are probably going to go on and play in college. This is just the next season for them. There’s still a little bit of pressure. But I think they’re going to set the tone.”
Last year’s state championship lineup that finished 37-4 lost only one starter, Sam Mizzell, who signed with Point University. Four All-State players — Elissa Waldrop, Ashton Bigler, Micayla Patterson and Rachel Lyons — are back to lead the way.
Starting at outside hitter last year, Waldrop led the team in kills (268) and blocks (71 1/2) and her versatility should keep the senior on the floor for most of matches regardless of the rotation.
“She’s such a good defensive player for someone her size,” said Camp. “We’re trying to figure out how to keep her in the game. You watch the Olympic volleyball on TV and most of the points are coming from the back line.”
Bigler is a two-time All-State returner and an equally staunch defender, finishing with 249 kills and 235 digs at middle hitter, only five behind Lyons, the team’s starting libero. Her 100 aces also led Trinity.
Lyons, who has verbally committed to Bryan University, was also second on the Lady Lions in serving-percentage behind Patterson, the team’s starting setter. Patterson finished with a team-high 824 assists in 2011.
Camp feels senior Julie Smaltz is ready to step into a bigger role in this year’s lineup, which also features a pair of juniors, three sophomores and freshman MacKenzie Coyle, a club-player who also starred for last year’s championship team at Lee Middle School.
“The reason I kept her on varsity is that I project her to play for us right away,” Camp said of Coyle.
The freshman’s prowess in the middle of the front line could allow the Trinity Christian coach a chance to experiment with the lineup, an aspect that already has become a tradition of his tenure with the fourth-year program.
Returning players Alex Huber, another defensive specialist, and Jordan Jones, who has the ability to play setter or on either side of the front line, give Camp options.
“We have some versatile players. I tend to be one of those coaches that experiments and it can get to a point where I’m never satisfied,” Camp said. “But you have to try it more than once. You can’t just do something once and say, ‘What’s next?’ You have to give it a chance.”
Trinity Christian will have three official matches in the standings before meeting up with last year’s big rival, Calvary, on the road on Aug. 21. The two programs split six meetings in 2011 before meeting a final time for the GISA state championship, where Trinity Christian capped off the season series with a sweep.
Camp knows the only way for the program to stay on top is not to be complacent, having already sent a message this week in practice.
“I got onto them pretty bad on Tuesday. They were losing focus a little bit. I told them it doesn’t matter what we did last year,” he said. “But I’m excited about this year. We should have as strong a JV team this year as anybody with nine freshmen. We’re a private school, but we’re starting to get noticed a little more. And that’s good.”