VIRGINIA — The Blue Devils volleyball team was anxious to start their hitting drills Monday when the first day of fall practice got underway.
However, it wasn’t until Tuesday head coach Crystal Nucech-Duesler included that in their work.
Nucech-Duesler wanted to make sure the 50 girls in grades 7-12 that came out for the team were also focused on serve-receive, passing, digging and defense.
The strategy paid off for Nucech-Duesler, now in her 15th year at the helm.
“We’ve done pretty much all of the skills and we have seen improvements even just from yesterday to today with some girls,’’ the coach said Tuesday afternoon. As the girls fine tuned their techniques and got in a couple extra reps, she said, ”yesterday was a really good practice and today they’ve worked really hard.’’
“Hitting is the funnest part, but we wait until the second day to get into it,’’ she said as the girls worked on line shots and quick sets. “It’s been going really well.’’
Nucech-Duesler had all 50 girls in the Roosevelt Gymnasium Tuesday, while the younger grades moved on to the tech gyms Wednesday.
“It’s good to see some of the younger kids’’ and what they can do. Some may be asked to stay with the older girls to tryout for a spot on ‘‘C’’ team or on the junior varsity.
Having all the different age groups together also benefits the entire team.
“The older upper classmen are parterning with junior high kids to get to know them and help each other out. It’s really fun to see that encouragement from the older kids,’’ Nucech-Duesler said. “There is lots of positive encouragement going on too, it’s nice to see.’’
After losing seniors Sarah Voss, Kristin Prasnicki and Carley Tausk to graduation, the head coach likes to use the first few days of practice to see who’s possibly playing where and try the girls out in different positions.
She has four seniors (Kaylee Iverson, Alli Anderson, Aryona Wallace and Emily Hejny) to lead the team in the fall of 2019, as well as “some younger kids that have really stepped up this year.’’
Many of the girls gained experience playing in the Esko and Mesabi Range summer leagues and the Hermantown captains’ tournament in Hermantown last Saturday.
With the season fast approaching, Nucech-Duesler will have a couple more opportunities to see what her girls can do. Virginia will be playing at the Hibbing Jamboree on Saturday and in the Proctor scrimmage on Monday.
“It will be nice to try different positions for different kids and see who fits well by each other. It will test their endurance too.’’
As far as replacing Voss as the setter, Nucech-Duesler said she is looking at Anderson and Macy Westby to fill those shoes. She also has a couple girls in mind for Prasnicki’s libero spot and others for the positions (outside hitter, right side hitter) Tausk held.
Iverson, Anderson, Wallace and Hejny are filling the leadership void, according to Nucech-Duesler. “They are stepping into that nicely as well.’’
The Blue Devils open the season at home on Aug. 27 against Two Harbors at 7 p.m. They follow that up with another home contest Aug. 29 against Duluth Denfeld at 5 p.m.
Early on in the preseason, Nucech-Duesler believes it will be a good season for grades 7-12 volleyball.
“It’s been a very good two days of practice. I like what I see so far.’’