MORRIS – For most of the summer, Morris girls volleyball coach Jackie Litwiler was pretty secure in the fact that she had a solid roster of 12 girls for her 2014 team.
When practice started Wednesday, however, injuries and players moving away had trimmed that roster of 12 to just six, putting the Redskins in wait-and-see mode.
“We have had two season-ending injuries and four players move away over the summer,” Litwiler said. “We have six right now to start our practice.”
Joanna Nowicki and Alex Kjellesvik are both lost to injuries, but all is not lost for the Redskins, who are coming off a three-year stretch under Litwiler that has seen them win 23, 21 and 19 matches. For starters, junior Kaylin Korte, who has already made a verbal commitment to play for University of Illinois, will be the main offensive threat on the outside. Morris will also have seniors Taya Torkelson as a setter, Amber Misek as a defensive specialist and Emma Thomas in the middle, along with juniors Maren Bashor (outside hitter) and Addison Polite (setter).
“We are going to try a two-setter system this year,” Litwiler said. “We are going to have to. We knew that teams were going to at least double Kaylin this year anyway, so we wanted to have an extra option. Now, with so few players, they will definitely be trying to take Kaylin away, so we are going to have to use Taya as an attacker sometimes.
“The good thing about our girls is that most of them play at least two sports. They are used to moving around and doing different things, so they just ask us what they need to do and go out and do it. They all have such great attitudes and are great kids.”
While Litwiler noted that sophomore Jenelle Brehm seems to be a sure thing to be called up from the sophomore team to the varsity to help fill out the roster, all the other positions are up in the air, making for a spirited competition on the lower levels in practice.
“We hope to get some help from the lower levels,” Litwiler said. “It hasn’t been the best summer for us, that’s for sure. But, it could be something that helps the program in the long run if we are able to find the right mix of kids and they get the experience together that turns into results later.
“Our goal this year will be to go out there, have fun and play hard. These girls are in a situation they have never been in before, so it will take some time to figure out the rotations and the dynamics between the players and how that all fits. We will have to keep working to find a combination or two that fits. These girls are going to have to be mentally tough, which you have to be in volleyball anyway. Almost every match comes down to who is more mentally tough.”
After what the Morris team has been through before the season even gets going on Aug. 28 with their opener at Coal City, there aren’t going to be many teams as mentally tough as the Redskins.
After visiting Coal City to open the season, Morris gets its home opener on Sept. 2 against Plainfield South.
“We have gotten great student support the last few years, and we hope that keeps up,” Litwiler said. “The girls get really pumped when the students are there cheering for them, and they are going to need that this year, especially early as we are finding our way.”