Season Summary 2008-09
The record books will indicate the Western Reserve Academy girls volleyball team won the same amount of matches that they lost in 2008.
But for Coach Sherry Chlysta and the players, the season was about more than just compiling an 8-8 overall record and a 0-4 mark in the Independent School League.
It was about continuing to build friendships, a team car wash that raised money for a good cause and defeating rival Our Lady of the Elms twice.
"We had a small, close knit team and they enjoyed working hard together," Chlysta said. "We improved considerably over last year and were able to run more plays, pass more effectively and serve aggressively."
Senior captains Ana Barsan and Rachel Boster provided leadership for WRA. Other key seniors included Daina Worcester, Kaitlin Crowder, Faith Washington-Law, Elizabeth Olsen, Emily Mesing and Elizabeth McClendon.
Emily Clark '11 and junior Sarah Puffer '10 were also vital to the team.
"Our team seemed to pick up at preseason just where we left off last year in October, only with a stronger team bond," said Clark, a middle hitter. "We beat our rivals the Elms, had a car wash to raise money for orphans in the Honduras and managed to grow closer not only as teammates but as friends.
"There were times when in the heat of the moment I would scream out an unintelligible word to Daina, and everyone else on the court somehow just knew what play we were about to run and moved into position. We knew each others strengths and weaknesses and adapted to make our game better. Plus, practice with this team was always filled with jokes and gossip; even through the conditioning."
Worcester, a setter, had similar thoughts regarding the season.
"My most memorable moment was our team's car wash," Worcester said. "It was ridiculously incredible to beat Elms. I was so happy."
Worcester played every minute of every game this season and earned the team's Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive season.
"(Daina) is a talented athlete whose enthusiasm and determination helped to motivate her teammates to play their best," Chlysta said. "She often lost her voice after our toughest matches, but it was her constant direction, leadership and play calling that helped us to play our best, especially in the toughest matches. I often say that the setter has the toughest job on the court.
"She has to make a play out of a bad pass. She has to know which hitter is 'on' each game and who is in position for the play she wants to call. She has to know when to make the hit herself and when to set up her teammate. She needs to know the opponent's best blocker, so she can place the ball in order to give our hitter the greatest advantage. She has to trust her teammates and earn their trust."
Worcester was named to the ISL First-Team for her efforts.
"She has the ability to make her teammates play better just because she is on the court," Chlysta said. "Maybe they don't want to let her down, or maybe they just like to match her intensity and desire. But our team is better for having Daina on the court."
Crowder was honored as the team's Most Improved Player after making significant strides with her passing.
"This year Kaitlyn Crowder improved so much that, by the last game of the season, I simply could not take her off the court," Chlysta said. "She moved quickly to every ball and passed accurately on even the hardest spikes and serves. Her improved passing alone could have earned this award for her. But Kaitlyn also learned to serve aggressively this year. In our last game of the season she scored seven consecutive points during the deciding game."
Crowder was tabbed as a Second-Team All-ISL selection.
"She was able to make the third hit convert into a point," Chlysta said. "In volleyball they call that a kill. She ended the season with so many kills she may be on the FBI's most wanted list."
Puffer received the Spirit Award for her willingness to play a variety of positions.
"(Sarah) was always ready to play any position I asked her to, even at a moment's notice," Chlysta said. "She would sometimes practice one position and then be thrown into another, always without a complaint. My favorite phrase 'Whatever you need, Coach' was one she used often. She regularly stayed after practice to serve an extra 20 balls or pass against the wall when everyone else had already left the gym. She even did this in the summer when the gym was stifling hot and we were already practicing three times a day. She brings to practice and to games the enthusiasm and excitement needed to help others stay motivated and to play their best."
Close wins, close losses
The highlights of the season were the two victories over the Elms, a school WRA had not topped in the previous five seasons. Reserve defeated the Elms on Sept. 30, and then beat the Panthers again on Oct. 11 on WRA's Senior Night.
Between those two wins were close home losses to Hathaway Brown and Laurel.
"This season was filled with memorable moments," Clark said. "It's nearly impossible to choose just one. Beating Elms on Senior Night was definitely a high point, and such a great way for the seniors to end their career.
"But probably the most memorable moments will be the close games, games against schools like Hathaway Brown and Laurel. We had so many fans come and support us, which was awesome, and I believe we played our best against them. Everyone was diving, screaming and running aggressive plays. Even when we didn't come out on top, it was some of the best volleyball we played all season."
Clark and Worcester said one constant throughout the season were Chlysta and assistant coach Katie Bonomo.
"Coach Chlysta has taught me to focus on small goals, five points at a time," Clark said. "Also, she's taught me that there's a time to play it safe, and a time to be aggressive. Sometimes, a serve into the net is OK if the next time it's an ace.
"Coach Bonomo is the poster child for athleticism. Her conditioning practices are brutal, and she expects you to make it to every ball in every drill, even if it means sprawling out across the court. After a series of her drills, we expect it from ourselves."
Next season is shaping up to be a challenge. The Pioneers graduate eight of the 10 varsity players and five of the six starters.
Clark and Puffer will be counted on for leadership and production as co-captains.
"It's going to be a rebuilding year," Clark said. "(Sarah and I) really want to focus on creating a team that is not only cohesive, but extremely athletic. I also think that serve receive is always something that can be perfected, as well as defense in general.
"As Coach Chlysta says, 'You can't have a good offense without a good defense,' which is so true. Without that perfect pass, there's no way to hit that killer spike."
Head Coach: Sherry Chlysta
Captain: Ana Barsan '09; Rachel Boster '09
|MVP: Daina M. Worcester
MIP: Thelma K. Crowder
Coaches/Spirit: Sarah N. Puffer