Lakewood volleyball hitting harder, aiming high

LAKEWOOD — Listening to an afternoon of practice, it sounds like Lakewood volleyball is trying to take their game to another level.

The usual sounds are still there: girls claiming a live ball, volleyballs bouncing off the floor where there was a missed dig and high fives around as one side earns a point.

But it's all a little more intense. The kills hit the floor harder, there are more high fives around and the girls cheer on their teammates when the other group has to do sprints.

It might be coming from head coach Tasha Kryger, who gives the girls exercises during practice that she has found in various volleyball programs and tells the girls that as long as they keep challenging themselves as players, she'll challenge herself as a coach.

"The better they get, the more things I have to dig up for them," she explained after practice.

But Kryger said she's not doing anything she hasn't done in previous seasons. It's just that the whole team has become so serious about building the program into a conference powerhouse.

"These juniors built this program," she said, quickly correcting herself. "They are building it, they're taking it to the next level."

And the junior class will provide much of the team's leadership. After graduating some key seniors last year, the juniors are the elder statesmen of the program, with the only senior a transfer student into the school district.

A defense specialist for the team last year, junior Samantha Adams will take over as the team setter after the departure of senior Peyton Mizell. The varsity team features another setter, fellow junior Natalie Raymond, who could push the team into less conventional offenses for prep volleyball like the six-two offense, which features a back row setter and two setters on the court.

Adams is one of four letter winners coming back to Cougar volleyball this year. Two more juniors are included among that quartet — Hayley Liebel, who will be moving from a middle hitter to the outside, and Megan Eby, who will take over the middle. Sophomore Kaylee Diggs, another outside hitter, is the fourth returning varsity member.

Although the team is young, it has experience in a lot of the right places. And the girls are aiming high.

"King's and Archbishop Murphy will be tough again. They lost some players, but they always come up with something," Kryger said. "I think we're right in there with them. Our goal is to be top three. We're hosting districts and we want to be playing them."

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