MORRIS – It’s been a week since Morris girls volleyball coach Jackie Litwiller started her team’s first practice with only six players on the varsity level.
And, it’s just more than a week before the Redskins have their first match, Aug. 28 at Coal City.
When practice started, the varsity roster consisted of seniors Taya Torkelson, Amber Misek and Emma Thomas, as well as junors Kaylin Korte, Maren Bashor and Addison Polite. Since then, Litwiller has bumped up Janelle Brehm from the sophomore team to full-time varsity, and there will be more on the way. Which ones is anybody’s guess.
“Right now, it’s hard to tell,” Litwiller said. “We are practicing with the varsity and sophomores together, and we are gearing the practices to a more varsity-oriented pace. The sophomores are getting used to moving around and playing a faster game, so hopefully that will help them, not only in the sophomore matches they will play, but so they will be ready if they are called up to help the varsity.
“It’s going to be a work in progress for a while. We are going to have to see what combinations work. One thing we definitely need to come up with is another person who can play in the middle.”
What began as a patchwork project is something that Litwiller hopes can transform into a cohesive unit. It will definitely take a team effort, and she will be leaning on the team itself to carry on that duty.
“I need to the six original varsity players to help me out,” Litwiller said. “And they really have been. Whether it’s little things like locker room stuff or organizational things. Usually, I would have a lot more seniors that would be able to help with that, but with only three, the juniors have had to step in and help, too. With adjusting to being in school and all that goes with that, things have gone pretty smoothly so far, so I am happy with them.”
It’s a responsibility that the Morris seniors take seriously.
“It’s different and it’s exciting at the same time,” defensive specialist Misek said. “The low numbers will definitely make things challenging, but on the other hand, it will help prepare some of the players on the lower levels ready for the future. We know we are helping the program move forward.”
“We definitely have to make a lot of adjustments,” said Thomas, the team’s only middle for now. “But we are getting used to it. We know we have to use our senior status and experience to help things go as well as they can.”
Torkelson, one of the Redskins’ two setters, is another player that hopes to help push the program ahead.
“We hope things work well as far as getting the team to take the next step,” she said. “It’s nice to know that we can be a part of doing that.”
Besides the seniors, Litwiller is also counting on Korte, who has not only the talent to have already committed to the University of Ilinois, but also the court time to take a leadership role as a junior.
“She has definitely had more time on a volleyball court than anyone,” Litwiller said. “And, she is able to take some of the taller sophomores in practice and teach them things. That’s something she seems to like doing, and the girls listen to her. She’s a leader, and we are going to need that from her.
“We are going to need leadership from all six of the original varsity players, and they have been very good about it so far. We know this isn’t the best situation, but we have to make the best of the situation we have. If some girls have to move around and play positions other than they normally would, they will be better-rounded players. That can work to our advantage. For now, we just keep working hard and see what happens.”