Last year was pretty miserable for Allen County volleyball head coach Whitney Shaw and her team.
The Lady Devils lost all 36 of their matches, building a streak of 43 straight losses stretching back to the 2016 season. None of them were particularly close either as Allen County won just five out of a total 113 sets played last season.
The year was marred by injury and poor team chemistry which led to players getting dismissed from the team at midseason. By the end of the year, Shaw was counting on managers not even on the roster to fill in gaps for her to finish the season.
Ive never dealt with a season like that before, Shaw said. This year Ive just been a little more cautious. Ive told every girl that Ive brought in here this year that if theyre not going to be a team player and if theyre not going to make smart choices then dont come here. So I hope that weeded out all of our problems but I also dont want to put the cart in front of the horse.
Shaw and the Lady Devils needed a change heading into the 2018 season.
Last year was rough, Shaw said. This year the goal was for this year to feel more like a team and more like a family. If we can get a more competitive environment and a more positive culture in place this year we feel the results will be more in our favor.
And so far, early on in the season thats been successful. As of last week, Allen County grabbed its first win since October 2016 when the Red Devils swept Labette County at a tournament in Fort Scott.
Now, its just a matter of keeping that momentum going led by a trio of returning sophomores. Holly Shinn, Miranda Golden and Emily Fritz who sat out last season with an injury will each help shoulder the load for Shaw as they continue to attempt to right the ship as the season progresses.
But more than anything, Shaw knew that with just three returners, shed have to rely on her freshman to come in and make a big and immediate impact.
Setter Cheyanne Dube and hitter Gabby Perez and Celymar Cabranes each should play a big part in the Lady Devils season.
Weve had some freshmen who came in needing more fundamental training and others who were just ready to go, Shaw said. And thats what I was looking for, freshmen who could come in and play right away.
While Shaw is hopeful that the turnaround will continue, shes not completely turning their back on the possibility that the problems from last year could rear their ugly head once again.
I really am just trying to be overly cautious, Shaw said. This time last year, we werent having the problems that came up with that group. So I know that anything can change at the drop of a hat.
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