Over the last few weeks, the Chanute High School Lady Blue Comets were supposed to participate in a standard volleyball team camp. But the plight of the times impacted the recent direction of the team.
Sixth-year head volleyball coach Jory Murry was around a person in Chanute who tested positive for COVID-19. Because of that, Murry quarantined for two weeks, eliminating the team camp. Murry has been out of quarantine for the past week and she is doing OK.
Before the quarantine, with the help of assistant coaches Tonya Frederick (JV coach), and Mary Reilly (freshman coach), the team lifted weights and hosted open gyms a few times throughout the summer. But the weeklong camp that is centered on defenses and team chemistry could not be held.
“We weren’t able to do that because of my quarantine that I was in, so we had the open gym days, we had the weightlifting, but other than that, we haven’t had a chance to do anything. We definitely have a lot of stuff to do in these first few weeks of practice,” Murry said. “There was a potential exposure around someone who had tested positive for the virus and so that puts you in that 14-day quarantine, which puts you right in the middle of the week that was scheduled for our camp.”
The Kansas State High School Activities Association in late July voted for fall sports to go on as normally scheduled, which puts the Lady Blue Comets in their first official week of practice this week – a time used to make up for the canceled camp.
“Our main focus this year is just to make the most of every moment because we don’t know how many moments we are going to have. Really just getting the girls to bring in positive energy and getting them to work hard and get comfortable with each other and then hopefully we can continue doing that for as long as we can. Really, our main focus is just going to be on taking advantage of every single second of every game and making the most of it.”
The first week of practice will comprise learning defensive coverages, discussing non-negotiables of being CHS volleyball players, positive communication and situational sets.
If everything was normal, players would have been practicing to gear up for the Winfield Tournament, which is scheduled every year. Circumstances altered those plans to hold volleyball games in Wichita; however, Murry and others didn’t feel safe heading to Wichita for a tournament in the middle of a pandemic.
Instead, players are sharpening their skills for the first game of the year, Tuesday, Sept. 1 versus Burlington High School. Varsity and junior varsity will play in Burlington, while the freshman team will play home.
This is the first opportunity of the 2020 year for Chanute to improve upon a 2019 season in which the Lady Blue Comets went 22-15 and achieved runner-up in the sub-state championship games at the end of October.
Four seniors will be on the team this year, including three who earned significant varsity time last year. Senior middle blocker and setter Sabry Trout, who was a first-team unanimous All-SEK player last season, led the team last year with 451 kills and 64 solo blocks. Senior Taylor West, a middle blocker, outside hitter and backrow player, will also be on the court for an extended period of time. Last year she mustered up 57 kills and 14 blocks. Senior Avery Finley played libero last year, though Murry intends on keeping the options open as she may play some front row with her leaping ability.
“Over the summer I have been attending CrossFit to help me prepare for my upcoming season,” Finley said. “I attended open gyms and camps to also help me. This season I plan to work with my team to have strong communication and effort throughout the season.”
There will be no juniors with varsity playing experience on the team this year. Brinly Bancroft will be the lone sophomore with experience on the varsity level. Last season, Bancroft posted 23 kills and four solo blocks.
“We definitely have lots of girls who have skills in all areas, they can kind of do it all,” Murry said. “After the first couple of weeks, we will see which kind of positions they fit into best and mesh together with the rest of the team. So we will see.”
Players lost to graduation include Sophi Emiling, Jac ey Lewis, Amanda Stalder and Makayla Schoenhofer.
This year’s players, though, will try and lead the newbies to the standards set by the departing student-athletes: two State appearances in five years and a league title in Murry’s first year as coach.