• Patton volleyball teams working toward goals

  • This is the second in a series of articles about Patton Junior High School fall sports.

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles about Patton Junior High School fall sports.
    Bump, set and spike are the words coming from the Patton Junior High School gyms every day after school as the seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade volleyball teams practice for their upcoming matches.
    Each team — led by Coaches Jacqueline Green, Rick Funk and Kaelyn Thierolf, respectively — spends practices focusing on its own set of goals.
    For seventh-grade, it is all about the fundamentals since each of the 13 girls rotate through playing each position.
    “Once they know the basic fundamentals, that will get them prepared for the higher-level competition,” Green said. “My practice starts off with running laps to get their legs, their body and their arms warmed up, then I do agility skill drills with them.”
    For eighth-grade, it is all about improvement since each of the 15 girls has her own specific position to focus on.
    “Improvement is something everybody can strive for. If you can’t do anything else, you can at least improve from what it was when you started,” Funk said. “I also try to introduce them to things that they will be doing in high school if they continue to play.”
    These techniques include libero, which is a player specialized in defensive skills, and 6-2 offense rotations.
    For ninth-grade, it is all about being scrappy now that the 12 girls are playing at a high school level.
    “It is about never letting a ball touch the floor and making that our first priority,” Thierolf said. “Working on those basic fundamentals on the level that we’re playing, we don’t have to get too fancy with it. I just want us to get the ball over and for us to be successful.
    “These girls have shown that they’ve been extremely scrappy by going after everything,” she said, “and I think that shows in the games because we emphasize it in practice.”
    Thus far, each team has played in multiple games and tournaments and has highlighted strengths and weaknesses, the coaches said.
    The seventh-grade team, though the girls have won a few of their sets, have yet to win a match, but Green said she is still pleased.
    “They progress every match,” Green said. “They are doing wonderful being that none of them had ever touched a volleyball before.”
    The eighth-grade team has yet to win a set or a match, but Funk said they have been close and that there are still accomplishments to be proud of.
    Page 2 of 3 - “Several of our sets and matches have gone 19, 20 to 25, so we just haven’t gotten over that hump,” Funk said. “Then, several of the girls, when we started out, were not able to serve overhand, and now we’ve already had two or three who are able to now. They’re improving in the spot that they’re playing.”
    The ninth-grade team has won four of their five matches.
    “We lost our first game, but I think that was out of nerves,” Thierolf said. “I’m excited for us to play Pleasant Ridge (High School) again because I think it will be a different outcome.
    “I think we’ve been successful because of the trust our girls have for each other, and that toughness and the mental toughness have been incredible,” she said. “I’m proud of the girls.”
    The coaches agreed they all have goals as their teams finish out the season.
    “I believe that once you come out on the court, you can come together as a team and work together as a team and have a mindset as a team,” Green said. “Once they have that experience, then they can move on to a higher level, to a competitive level.”
    Funk said he hopes the eighth-grade team learns to communicate with each other better.
    “Communication should improve our overall team play,” Funk said. “Hand-eye coordination is one thing we can improve on, too, because there are some girls that haven’t played a sport that has involved a ball where they’ve got to actually get to it and hit it.”
    Thierolf said she wants to prepare them for the upper-level high school teams like junior varsity and varsity.
    “If anything, I want the girls to come out more as a team,” Thierolf said. “They are not going to remember the wins and losses, but they are going to remember the experiences and the toughness and the strength that they had together.”
    No matter the struggles yet to face or the goals yet to be realized, players agreed that they were enjoying playing.
    Patton seventh-grader Rebecca Dannemiller said she finds volleyball interesting and fun.
    “It is just nice because school is very stressful, and it is just something really fun to do where I can hang out with friends and still have fun,” Dannemiller said. “I just hope we maybe win a few games.”
    Patton eighth-grader Megan Vaitautolu, who plays setter and outside hitter for her team, said she has always enjoyed playing volleyball.
    Page 3 of 3 - “I grew up playing volleyball since I was 7 when my dad taught me,” Vaitautolu said. “That is how I grew my love for volleyball, and I just look forward to getting better with it every year because I like to improve. My goal is to play in high school and college and hopefully, professional.
    “Also, I want to encourage my team and help all of us improve,” she said.
    Patton ninth-grader Julia Mateja, who plays various positions for the team, said although she plays other sports, volleyball is her favorite.
    “Volleyball is a really good team sport,” Mateja said. “It helps everybody work together really well, and it allows everybody to cooperate together and make friends, but also get in shape and have fun.”
    The next seventh- and eighth-grade matches are against Piper Middle School from 4-6 p.m. Sept. 30 at Patton.
    The next ninth-grade home match is against Gardner Edgerton High School at 4 p.m. Oct. 1 at Patton.
    For a complete Patton sports schedule, visit patton.usd207.org/apps/events/?id=1.
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