COVINGTON — All the hard work over the summer paid off for Alcovy’s volleyball team as they started the six-team tournament at Eastside on Saturday with a win.
“We got a win at the start of the day so it started great,” first-year Lady Tigers head coach Michelle Finley said. “The one’s in between we were competitive and that’s all I can ask.”
Alcovy ended the day with a win to 2-3 for the tournament.
“I was pleased with the way we played on Saturday. The girls played as a team, especially with some new faces,” Finley said. “So to mesh well on the first day was pretty good.”
Finley started the season with a lot of changes from last year. A few of the changes include a new set of rules where academics are first. With more rules written down, Finley feels that there are no gray areas for the girls so they know what is and what is not allowed.
“At the parent meeting I went over different rules including if a player isn’t passing class they’re going to get academic help instead of going to practice. I think the amount of rules and polices I’ve put in place were a little challenging for the girls at first,” Finley said. “But in the long run I think they’re going to help everything fall in place a lot better.”
While a lot of teams have goals involving trips to the final four or at the very least going to state as area champion, Finley’s goals are a little bit below those.
“The (main) goal is to go .500; the volleyball team has never gone .500,” she said. “I don’t want to set my goals unreachable but I think .500 will be an outstanding way to build a program here. Other goals are to to build better and stronger women. I want to teach them about teamwork and organization and cooperation and confidence and a lot of things that are life skills that they’ll need well beyond volleyball.”
With a 12-player roster, Finley knows that every player has an important role to play if they want to win more games than they lose. However, they are a few players that she will look to to make sure that everyone is doing what their best to make sure they play as a team. A couple of those players are returning senior and team captain Aleisha Lett and exchange student Femke Stogelinga.
“A standout is definitely my new foreign exchange student, Femke Stoelinga, she’s from the Netherlands. She brings a great skill set and she’s a really smart volleyball player. She’s very calculated and very smart,” Finley said.
Finley is also hoping that the athleticism and pure talents of Hunter Terrell and Francesca Fugarino. Not only for the present but for the future as a building block.
“Hunter Terrell has played for us before but now she started playing year-round volleyball this year. She’s gotten a whole lot better and she’s probably going to be my most consistent player,” Finley said. “Then we have a player that just tried out and has never played organized volleyball before named Francesca Fugarino. She has a different skill set but she’s also a very smart and calculating player. Volleyball is a smart game and I’ve got girls that can think and see the moves before they actually happen.”
One of the big challenges that faced Finley over the summer was getting the girls to look at conditioning in a whole new way. Going three days a week, Finley had the girls practice as well as spending time in the weight room and running. Two things they were not accustomed to doing.
“That was a big challenge, to take 20 girls who have never been in the weight room in their life,” Finley said. “We ran everyday even though some of my girls didn’t know why you had to run to play volleyball.”
One aspect of their game that has shown the most improvement is serving. Unfortunately, they still need to learn to concentrate and play the game rather than be a spectator on the court.
“Everybody can serve pretty consistently and they get along really well, which I think is really important. They gelled really quickly,” Finley said. “We have to learn to move. We tend to just watch sometimes, especially when the team seems to be better than us. They’re in shape to be able to move, it’s just that they get caught off guard because they get in awe”
Even though this is Finley’s first year as head coach, she spent several years under former head coach Amanda Briggs. She feels that it was Briggs’ direction that helped put the girls a step closer to helping them reach the goal set.
“I appreciate all the work Briggs had done over the years she was (coach) because they have a good solid foundation,” Finley said. “The learning curve is quicker because of that.”