Elk Lake girls volleyball coach Whitney Search is facing an uphill battle.
With 17 girls on her roster, and nine of them freshmen with no playing experience, her new task is to teach, as well as enhance, the love of the game to encourage more players to come out for the team.
The Lady Warriors lost six seniors to graduation, and according to Search, have graduated 20 seniors in her three yearsof coaching.
Now in her fourth year, she is still battling the numbers with other fall sports, struggling for participation during Harford Fair week, and having no feeder program from junior high.
“We are a very young team, with not a lot of returners,” said Search. “We are really struggling to get the girls on the court. We still have not had the entire varsity team together for practice yet.”
“The large amount of seniors graduating left the team with very few players compared to past years. This has made it difficult to run practices effectively,” said Amelia Comely, a current senior.
Comely added, “I like to help out our freshmen by gently reminding them to correct their form, or to constantly keep moving on the court. My sister Anna and I can use our experience to give tips to newer players. This will make the game easier and more fun.”
Search explained, “The city schools can practice all year round if they wanted to. They have the numbers and don’t have the other distractions like we do- we can’t work on game situations when we only have one or two varsity girls at our practices.”
Though Search, along with assistant coach Mary Berg, has tried to institute mandatory workouts, she says there are just physically not enough bodies at practice to work on game strategy.
“We have problems implementing the consequences because we need to keep our numbers,” she lamented.
“In Elk Lake’s rural communities, 4-H and county fairs are a way of life. It is the livelihood of many families and showing cows is something that our student-athletes pride themselves on. We would never tell someone they can’t go to the fair and can’t participate in their family’s traditions, it is just something that all Elk Lake coaches have to deal with,” said Search.
The Warriors have a no-cut policy, and Search said sometimes the players aren’t athletically ready to be on the court, but fill a mathmatical need.
“A lot of times kids feel that volleyball isn’t a really hard sport, they think they only have to pass the ball. They think it’s going to be just like gym class,” she said. “But it’s not. It’s a lot harder than that.”
“Volleyball is a quick paced sport, so it’s easy to get confused. I find that it’s helpful to remind my teammates of the next step, especially if they are new to the sport,” explained Comely.
Search is optimistic about the future of the program, but says that if the numbers don’t improve she doesn’t know what will happen. She just wants the players to be able to gain confidence, make friends and become better, smarter, more passionate players as their high school career continues. She’s looking to grow the program for the long haul and stresses that the numbers are needed.
“In order to recruit new members, we can set up a mini camp just like the cheer and track team do. In addition to this, we can work with the Physical Education department and teach students the proper way to play the game,” said Comely. “I’m feeling pretty optimistic about the upcoming season, the freshmen girls are showing a lot of promise. Their serving skills are very advanced, and their passing skills are improving quickly.”
Roster: Seniors Amelia Comely, Allana Warner, and Allison Hewitt. Juniors Anna Comely, Olivia Voll, and Brooke Ramey. Sophomores Lily Decker and Ashlyn Berry. Freshmen Amanda Voll, Olivia Beasley, Grace Werkheiser, Kelsey Lawrence, Julia Hibbard, Raylynn Dyson, Danica Wagner, Mikayla Wagner, and Liberty Azaravich.
Schedule: Aug. 20 vs. Mountain View; Sept. 4 vs. Dunmore; Sept. 6 at Montrose; Sept. 10 vs. Abington Heights; Sept. 12 at Forest City; Sept. 16 vs. Lackawanna Trail, Sept. 18 at Blue Ridge; Sept. 20 vs. Susquehanna; Sept. 23 at Western Wayne; Sept. 25 at Mountain View; Sept. 26 at Dunmore; Oct. 1 vs. Montrose; Oct. 3 at Abington Heights; Oct. 8 vs. Forest City; Oct. 10 at Lackawanna Trail; Oct. 15 vs. Blue Ridge; Oct. 17 at Susquehanna; Oct. 22 vs. Western Wayne.