Collinsville hopes to turn close losses into wins
August 30, 2012By Chris Kusnerick of Collinsville High School
With the exception of a few matches, the Collinsville volleyball team was competitive in most of its matches in 2011. But as coach Tracy Plagemann knows, competitive doesn’t always translate into successful.
Collinsville was 15-19, losing to Belleville West in a first-round Class 4A regional match.
“Last year was a mixed bag for us - there were some games we should have won, but we didn’t,” Plagemann said. “I was a little disappointed because I felt we should have done better.”
Graduation losses included outside hitters Casey Kuechle and Brooke Pruett, libero Jessica Fletcher and setter Caitlin Condray, but the Kahoks still have a solid group of returning players. Collinsville took a 2-0 record into Monday’s home match against Carlyle, with wins over Nashville on Aug. 21 and Centralia on Thursday.
“I think the Centralia match showed that experience can make a difference for us,” Plagemann said. “We came out and won the first game pretty handily, but in the second game we had a lull like you sometimes see in volleyball.
“Last year we may have let that get to us, but the girls calmly grinded it out and came back to win. We didn’t panic and a lot of that was due to our seniors.”
The senior contingent includes libero/defensive specialist Sam Stephens, defensive specialist Katie Hunsinger, right side Meg Votoupal, outside/middle hitter Cami Davis, outside hitters Kristen Ruffcorn and Sarah Rendleman and middle/outside hitter Katie McCarthy. Rendleman and McCarthy are the team captains.
“Katie McCarthy was third team Southwestern Conference last year and she’s a gamer,” Plagemann said. “She’s quick on the ball and good at finding (open) spots and she’s already had some success this year.
“Sarah Rendleman has not played for us yet because she broke her foot during the summer, but she got released (by her doctor) this week and we’re hoping to see her back in action soon. She was a middle hitter, but we switched her to the outside midway through last season and she did really well, so we’re keeping her there.
“Sam Stephens played solid for us last year and does a really nice job on serve receive. She was a defensive specialist, but we’re moving her to libero. She’s stepping up and taking a leadership role on defense.”
Plagemann is equally enthused about the other seniors.
“Meg Votoupal has great hands on the right side and her hitting has really come on this year,” Plagemann said. “Katie Hunsinger had limited experience, but she’s stepping into a DS role.
“Kristen Ruffcorn, Cami Davis and (junior) Renee Locandro have been splitting time on the outside and it’s a good competition. They all have their strong suits and it seems like every game, someone different is stepping up.”
The seniors, like their coach, are anxious to see what the team can do this season.
“We’re working more on defense and playing as a team and staying together through the whole game,” McCarthy said. “Last year I was injured most of the season - I was able to play, but I wasn’t 100 percent. Being healthy should help me a lot.”
“This year we have a lot of strong girls and everyone gets along - we don’t have any drama,” Rendleman said. “We have a lot of heart and every game, we’re out to win.”
Junior Sabrina Flohr returns at setter, with junior Cathy Schreiber at middle hitter.
“Last year she ran a 6-2 (offense), but this year we’re also doing some 5-1,” Plagemann. “We’re still kind of feeling that out and she’s been doing a fabulous job of spreading the offense.
“We used Cathy on the right side last year, but this year we moved her to the middle. She’s also playing all the way around.”
Junior Lauren Chiarelli will be the second setter in the 6-2 offense and junior right side hitter Lauren Witte could also be part of the rotation. Rounding out the roster are freshman outside hitter Ellie McCarthy and junior outside hitter Danielle Slusher.
Collinsville was scheduled to play Tuesday at Freeburg and will play Friday and Saturday in the Tiger Classic at Edwardsville.
“I would like to see this group win more of those close games,” Plagemann said. “I think there’s a lot of potential here and I’ve talked to the girls about expectations. I think we’re a little scrappier than we’ve been in the past.
“I’d like to see us finish a little higher in the conference. I also want us to have more success in tournaments and in the postseason.”