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Major improvements from Eagle volleyball
The transformation of a young Arlington Eagle volleyball team is in full swing and leading the way is first year coach Cari Britt. An completely revitalized squad appeared on the court Sept. 20 for the Eagles match against Meadowdale, one that looked more than competent and improving at every position.
Britt has taken her group and molded them into a more cohesive unit, capable of competing favorably in the brutally tough Wesco North conference. Her intelligent decisions regarding strategy, substitution, and player management formed the basis for this group of girls to make the most of their natural talents.
One of Britt's early decisions on the season was to bring up Kelsey Czban from the junior varsity squad to be the new setter. After watching the varsity struggle to find consistent setting, Britt made the call to bring up the young Czban to fortify the position. Czban excells at passing the ball, creating consistently better attacking opportunities for her teammates than were previously available. Her presence alone lifted the potential of the team to a higher level.
Czban's arrival also allowed for Kyra Prause to move to outside hitter, a position where she used her impressive vertical leap to throw down some vicious spikes against Meadowdale. Prause looks to be at home on the wing and should be a vital offensive weapon for the Eagles during the remainder of the season.
However, despite all the talent and despite making big strides in production, the Eagles still have a long way to go to compete with the elite teams. Too many service errors combined with an inconsistent first pass to Czban spelled doom for the Eagles as they lost 25-22, 10-25, 15-25, 19-25. Often it appeared the girls were shocked at being in a position to win, focusing on the score itself rather than the game at hand.
Britt made some good choices for timeouts to continually to remind the team to keep their heads in the game.
After winning the first set, their first victory in any set during the young season, Arlington was blitzed in the second by a determined Meadowdale squad. It took a tongue lashing to get them back to playing volleyball but the Arlington girls, led by some impressive kills from Amanda Bottini and Breanna Covey responded. In the third set, Meadowdale again capitalized on Arlington's inexperience but the fourth set was extremely competitive and hard fought.
Before the set even began Bottini was chanting on the far sideline, ""Come on ladies! We've got this one!"" Bottini then threw her energy into the game itself, pulling out some important digs, and delivering equally devastating kills.
The Eagles looked scrappy. You could sense they had the right spirit in them, a sense of urgency, and a determination to fight hard. It was a totally different team than in the past. With the score 19-20 in favor of the visitors, it appeared Arlington simply ran out of gas. Their passes to Czban became more strained and they could not finish the way they'd started the match. An injury to key outside hitter Ryanne Mueller further hurt the Eagles chances of victory, as Mueller sat helpless on the bench watching her team struggle.
But the positive news is this: The program is in good hands with Britt. What has transpired in the first few weeks of the season in terms of organization, progress, and competitiveness is nothing short of miraculous. Clearly the Eagles had some talent to begin with, but now they have a coach who believes in them and a new outlook on the games.
""We're improved in every way,"" said Amanda Bottini after the match. ""I'm an underclassman so I try to bring an attitude of fight to the team. We're getting better all the time.""
Her setter Kelsey Czban agreed.
""I can't wait for the rest of the season,"" she said. ""We haven't won yet but we will. We've made a lot of progress.""