DAYTON — The Tongue River High School volleyball team looks green this season, both literally in its colors and figuratively with experience. The team lost nearly all of its players who received significant time on the court last year, so the roster is almost entirely new this season.
For head coach Janelle Manore, that means spending a lot of the season figuring out which lineups work best together. The new team leads to uncertainty but also provides an opportunity for a bit of a fresh start.
With a stable coach in place — Manore is in her second year as head coach after the previous three head coaches lasted only one season — the players believe they have the chance to build a program culture of togetherness and respect, which should lead to more on-court success.
“We want to make volleyball a sport that all the girls want to play and all the school is proud of,” senior middle hitter Morgan Warren said. Warren is the team’s only senior. She was injured most of last year and hopes to respond well this year and earn an All-Conference nod.
Junior Sydney Butler wants to be happy to play with teammates who care about her, which has been the case thus far.
“We don’t really keep each other down,” Butler said. “We’re there for each other.”
Butler and Warren began playing volleyball in fifth grade and enjoyed the social aspect of being part of a team and working with others.
“I liked that no matter where I was on the court, it wasn’t just me,” Warren said. “It was everybody else helping get toward the goal of winning.” Similarly, Manore said resiliency is a team strength.
“We all know that we’re going to have good days and bad days,” Manore said. “When someone’s doing great, we’re willing to get behind them, and when somebody’s struggling, we’re willing to support them.”
The season theme is “jungle tiger,” something the coaches learned about in a coaching clinic earlier this year. It mainly symbolizes getting out of one’s comfort zone, taking risks and attacking everything.
With that in mind, Manore said the team has done a good amount of mental training so far in practice, along with the usual physical workouts.
Warren said the mental component of the game is amplified in volleyball, when everyone notices a mistake.
“You have to really be present in the game to fully play,” Warren said.
With the same coach, more mental training and almost an entirely new team, the Lady Eagles have a chance to set the foundation and build the team culture for years to come.