Girls Volleyball Exceeds Expectations Despite Injuries

Howell+North%27s+varsity+girls+volleyball+team+huddles+up+during+a+timeout+on+9%2F26+vs.+FHC.

Credit to Wil Skaggs

Howell North’s varsity girls volleyball team huddles up during a timeout on 9/26 vs. FHC.

By Joel Boenitz

Heading into the 2017 season, the girls volleyball team had relatively low expectations for the season. Without key players such as senior Caty Arnold and sophomore Kylie Schaffer for the year, it looked as if the team would continue their streaks of getting swept by Howell and losing in the first round. But luckily for them, they were were able to outperform their expectations, and make this season one that head coach Kent Stover was proud of.

“We came in with relatively low expectations and we actually outperformed what we had expected of them,” Stover said. “We did a lot better than I think a lot of the girls anticipated. I was exceedingly proud of them.”

Record-wise, the team did have their ups and downs throughout the season. Some games would have the occasional sloppy mistakes, and sometimes they were just outplayed. However, no matter how the game was going, the girls would have a fighting spirit in them. One game where this fighting spirit was shown was their first match against Howell, where they proved that they can be a force to be reckoned with.

“They [Howell] walked in like they were going to beat us, and we were determined to not let them do that,” senior Caty Arnold said, “we beat them in the first set, and we took them to three games, and we fought really hard to win. Unfortunately we lost such a great game, and it really changed our mentality on the season.”

That first set that the Knights took against the Vikings had been the first set the Knights won against them since 2013. The Knights showed from this game that they were willing to break certain dry streaks and show that they had some fight in them. One way they kept the fight in them? Through the bonds made throughout the team.

“Throughout all of my seasons in high school and club volleyball, there had been drama and there were a ton of problems on the court,” junior Hannah Zimmerman said. “I’m just happy and proud that we were able to work well together and be able to win more games than in the past.”

As the regular season came to an end, the district rounds began, and the Knights had to face the team that knocked them out of the district tournament the previous year: Westminster. The girls lost to Wildcats in three sets to them the previous year, and they were looking for some revenge this year. The teams had met up once this season during a tournament at Lutheran St. Charles, where the game ended in a tie. However, the outcome of the district game went in favor of the Knights, as they beat the Wildcats in two sets by the same score of 25-21. The Knights had broken another dry spell, making it past the first round for the first time since 2014.

“Our team really came together as a team and we played really hard against them,” Zimmerman said. “It was also one of the first times in three years that we made it past the first round of districts and we were all able to show our skills, and we performed very well.”

Unfortunately for the Knights, their luck ended after that game, as they were beaten by Parkway West in two sets in the next round. They finished the season of 7-11, a record that the team was very acceptable of. With the end of this season, the Knights will say goodbye to three seniors, Caty Arnold, Courtney Haslip, and Elise Stuertz.

“I’m definitely going to miss the people on the team, they’re my best friends,” Arnold said, “it’s going to be different not going to practices everyday, and have something to look forward to at the end of the day. I’m really going to miss the coaches as well, they’ve helped me both in and out of school.”

With the seniors gone for next year, the Knights are hopeful to return the five juniors on the team and have them step up into a leadership role next year. The Knights showed the potential that they are capable of having, and with the hopes of a healthy team next year, they may be a team that people need to keep an eye out for next year.

“The three seniors are going to be hard to replace because of their leadership on and off the court and also their personality,” Stover said, “but I’ve got 5 juniors coming in who have been learning from these three seniors, so I’m hopeful that these juniors can pick up the slack and do the things they are being trained to do.”