GARDNER – For a team that won just four of its 23 varsity girls volleyball decisions in 2012, Gardner-South Wilmington was reasonably competitive much of the time.
Senior middle hitter Breann Fisher said a change of mentality is needed when she was asked what the key to success in 2013 will be for the Lady Panthers on Thursday afternoon.
“To not give up,” Fisher said. “A lot of the time, we’ll come in fired up and start off OK, and then one mistake will throw everything off. We’ll give up one bad point, and that one point will turn into us being down 10 points. We need to get to the point where, OK, mistakes are going to happen, but they cost you one point and you move on.”
Fisher is part of a junior- and senior-heavy group that will get much of the playing time, said second-year coach Melissa Cardone. Junior Lexi Posing and Fisher will play in the middle. Another junior/ senior pair, Bryanna DeMoraes and Sam Schultz, will be the primary outside hitters.
Junior Emily Foley will share time with sophomore Maranda Residori at setter. Defensively, the Lady Panthers will feature junior Sophie Barna and seniors Paige Lardi and Ally Matthews.
It is a group that Cardone feels can be very competitive.
“I think top half of the (River Valley) Conference this year is an attainable goal, as well as a regional championship. We have a lot of heart on this team, which will help make those goals possible,” Cardone said.
“In order to be in the top half of conference and a regional contender, we need to keep working on serve receive. Since we have been able to start practice, serve receive averages have been improving daily. That will help make us a [complete] team. We have great hitters and setters, and play amazing defense.”
The Lady Panthers have the right collective attitude to turn those close losses into wins, Cardone said.
“I like that this team is fiercely competitive at whatever they do,” Cardone said.
Fisher said the Lady Panthers spent some of their summer in open gyms and working on conditioning and core training. And while Cardone said this preseason was easier, the Gardner Elementary School teacher and coach was no stranger to her players before the start of last season.
“I think we are more comfortable with each other,” Cardone said. “However, I coached all of these girls for two years in junior high, so they understand me and my coaching style. We are all looking forward to a great season.”