Big plans for spikers

By Norv and Mary Coblentz · Wednesday, August 22, 2012
New West Liberty Head Volleyball Coach Melissa Brockway comes to the team with some new ideas, and, led by the eight seniors on the team, the players are behind her all the way. The team’s talent and strong work ethic are sure to make for a successful season for the Comets.

“The seniors love to be in the gym,” Brockway said. “We have girls stay after practice every single day on their own accord. They approach me and ask ‘Can I stay to work on’ this or this? They’ve really set the tone for wanting to put in time and wanting to improve.

“I am so grateful for them because they accepted me with open arms when I came into this program,” Brockway said. “They were very open to the way I decided to lead things this year. They’ve been so excited about jumping on board and helping get everyone else on board.”

Brockway has moved some players around, and she is having them play multiple positions at times. Seniors Kristi Feldman and Kennedi Simon are in the middle this year, “and they are relentless hitters,” Brockway said. “They love to score, they’re very competitive, and that’s exactly what you need in that position. On the outside is Marissa (Kelly) who is really smart. She’s a little bit undersized for a hitter, so in exchange she’s developed into a very smart player. We’ve got Sydney Warson who hits the crap out of the ball.

“We’ve got a lot of hitters who are moving around and playing some different spots. They are becoming quite versatile and able to fill in for each other. As they are able to fill in for those other positions, they are able to understand their own position better. They have a wider vision on the court.

“Kathy Kaalberg since day one of practice has made a ton of improvement in her arm strength. I’m just so excited to see what she’s going to do this year. She’s hitting on the right side some for us and on the outside some as well. She just goes all out every time she’s on the court.

“We have several seniors who really control that back line - Grace Jedlicka, Jesse Newton, and Hayley Simon. Those are three of the hardest workers on the team.

“I think our back court defense is going to be pretty impressive. We have our libero (Molly Kelly), and she’s just a genius. She’s just the smartest player I’ve ever met by far and her intelligence in the backcourt is going to take us a long way.

“We have so much senior leadership in our defensive specialists and so many young defensive specialists coming up as well. I think we’ll be in the system a lot because of the talent back there, so I think it’s going to be pretty easy for our hitters to get the ball.”

Unity and teammate support are a big part of the team this season. “I think as we move forward, we’re going to be incredibly united,” Brockway said. “These girls support each other so much, and all of us put so much time in that I really think it begs success with everyone working as hard as we’re working. Good things are bound to happen.”

Although this is Brockway’s first coaching job at the high school level, she’s got plenty of coaching experience. “I have been a club coach, and I’ve been around the college game as well,” she said. “I got my first head coaching job a couple of years ago with the Iowa Rockets which is a club in Iowa City. I ran their twelves program and took two teams to nationals (in 2011 and 2012).

“I also worked as the University of Iowa student manager for five years, so I went to all the practices and matches of the women’s volleyball team at Iowa. I learned a ton about high systems, training, multiple offense and defense work, and through working with the twelves, I learned a lot about training fundamentals and solidifying those in beginning players. So (this coaching job) is kind of the perfect hybrid between the two.”

In addition to this coaching experience, Brockway grew up watching her dad coach volleyball. “My dad is a varsity coach and was the whole time I was growing up,” she said, “so I’ve really been around the game. The dialog of coaching is what I grew up with at home, so it was a pretty natural transition.”

Although she’s not very familiar yet with the Cedar Valley Conference, she thinks that West Liberty will be in the mix again. “I think we’ll be strong,” she said. “I think we’ll definitely pose a threat. I think West Branch is going to come back tough as well. I know they didn’t lose very many players. I know some of the girls on that team are forceful.

“I’m excited about that game (West Liberty will play at West Branch Oct. 1). I actually came and watched that game last year (the Comets won the conference tournament and West Branch won the conference title), so it’s funny looking back. Sitting in the seats at that point last year, I had no idea what was going to happen (that she would be West Liberty’s coach).

“I don’t know a lot about all the teams, but I know that they’ll be tough, I know we’ll be tough. I know that there are always surprises and people end up being threats that you don’t expect. That’s what’s great about it, I think.”
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