• Coach Beth Trowbridge sees lots of playing time as key to Lady M’s success this season
By Sean Pearson
Now in her 13th season coaching Homer High School volleyball, Lady Mariner Head Coach Beth Trowbridge has a pretty good idea of how things work in Alaska volleyball circles.
With help this year from junior varsity coach Lisa Fellows and former Homer player and C-team coach Jessie Erickson, Trowbridge continues to build Lady Mariner volleyball into a program, and not just a different team every year.
And, she knows how to be patient.
“I lost a lot of seniors to graduation last year, so this year’s team is new to playing at the varsity level,” Trowbridge explained. “We have some very talented players on the team, but I am only returning three players who saw a lot of varsity playing time last season.”
Senior Zoia Basargin (first-team, all-region last year), junior Larsen Fellows and senior Maggie Koplin will all return to varsity action this season. Senior Tayla Cabana also saw varsity action, especially late in the season last year as an outside and middle hitter.
“We need some time to gain experience and gel as a new team,” Trowbridge said. “But I am looking to Zoia and Tayla to lead the team offensively, as they both bring powerful attacks and great defensive, all-around play.”
Larsen Fellows will lead the team setting.
“I haven’t completely set the varsity team yet, but senior Brenna Evarts will help out with defensive play and Hailey Hughes will be looked to for some middle blocker action,” she explained. “Kyla Pitzman, a junior, will be working hard to refine her hitting and blocking skills.”
Other players sure to see plenty of varsity time include juniors Jane Rohr in middle and right side, Maggie Larue as defensive specialist and sophomores McKi Needham as a setter and Lyndsay Brown as a middle/utility player.
“The remaining players will be figured out after the first couple of weeks — once we get some playing time under our belts,” Trowbridge said. “We are pretty young and will need to gain some experience and confidence.”
Over the weekend, the Lady M’s hosted their annual Jamboree at Alice Witte Gymnasium, where they welcomed five other area teams.
“The Jamboree is always a fun, first event to kick off the season,” Trowbridge explained. “It is considered a practice tournament, so there are no awards given.”
With six teams participating in this year’s Jamboree, round-robin play on Friday and a double-elimination tournament on Saturday gave teams several matches.
“The Jamboree is a great opportunity for Homer players to gain experience in a varsity setting,” Trowbridge said. “We had some very good play mixed with some challenges in communication and consistency.”
The Lady Mariners took Seward to three sets on Saturday, but lost the third set 12-15. They then faced Soldotna, where they lost in two games. The second set was close, with a final score of 20-25.
Trowbridge said her team learned a lot by watching some of the more experienced teams and players, and now know the level of play they will need to rise to in order to compete.
“They came away from the tourney determined to focus on increasing communication on the court as a team and finding consistency in serving,” she said.
Basargin had a team high 31 kills for the weekend, while Cabana added 30. Basargin also had 11 service aces and four solo blocks.
McKi Needham picked up 10 service aces, while Fellows served with 97 percent consistency. Pitzman showed aggressive net play at times, and led the team with eight solo blocks, five block assists and 11 kills.
Koplin led the team in digs, and Rohr added five kills and three block assists to the team stats.
While the two-day tourney was certainly a test of endurance, Trowbridge said she felt her players were up for the challenge.
“Most of the girls came into the season in good shape after being pretty active all summer,” she explained. “We do not have any athletes who focus only on volleyball; most of these girls are multi-sport athletes who spent their summer playing softball, soccer or going to basketball or volleyball camps.”
She added that it’s a challenge to maintain both mental and physical stamina during a long tournament, but hopes that three more back-to-back tournaments will give her squad plenty of practice.
The Lady M’s will spend the next three weekends at tournaments in Cordova, Seward and Houston, returning home for matches on Tuesdays scattered in between. Sept. 3 is the first home match against Kenai, and Homer will also host the Peninsula Challenge tournament the weekend of Sept. 27-28.
Trowbridge said the team has yet to set official goals for the season, but she thinks everyone is ready to work hard to improve, strengthen skills and communication and strive to be contenders for a berth at the state tournament this year.
“Even though we are young and lack experience right now, I have some stellar athletes who enjoy being part of a team and playing volleyball,” she said. “I believe it will come together for them later in the season as they reap the benefits of hard work and lots of playing time.”
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