The Saxony Lutheran volleyball team enters its second season under head coach Wendi Beussink after going 19-10-3 overall in 2016.
The Crusaders reached the semifinal round of the Class 2 District 3 Tournament where their season came to an end in a 2-0 loss to Arcadia Valley.
“Obviously the entire season is to work towards a district championship, and we don’t get the luxury of playing any of the teams we see in our district,” Coach Beussink said. “We go in blind — we had no idea what we were facing or the history of these teams because we didn’t get to see them in season.”
Coach Beussink said even though this is the case, her team can still improve on their game especially during easy games when it may be easy for players to let up.
“That’s our preparation for districts,” Coach Beussink said. “It’s going to be day in and out every single game, and just try to get better at the things we aren’t good at and expanding on that.”
Only one player graduated from last year’s team, and Coach Beussink thinks this will be vital for her team’s success because of the number of players not returning on other teams in the area due to graduation.
“These girls already have experience playing at the varsity level — they already know what it’s going to be like,” Coach Beussink said. “Going into this year, we haven’t had to break down things fundamentally in practice.”
With returning all but one player from last season, Saxony has been able to work on speeding up its offense. Coach Beussink has also been able to focus on teaching her seniors what their specific roles are.
Another focus for Coach Beussink is communication on the court, such as players calling shots and when they think they can make a play on the ball.
Coach Beussink has high expectations heading into this season with so many returning players after beating teams like Cape Notre Dame and Valle Catholic.
Having eight seniors is “overwhelming” for Coach Beussink because she doesn’t have to do other things with them that she may have to do with other groups.
“For these girls, I’m so happy there’s so many of them, and they’re such a tight knit group that they work really well together,” Coach Beussink said. “They communicate well together, and it’s awesome to see them on the court just because they get it. You see a lot of teams and they’re still trying to figure out their niche and what is or isn’t going to work for them.”
Saxony’s eight seniors are outside hitter/server Lexi Barnes, middle/right hitter Addison Beussink, middle/right hitter Ashley Fritsche, defensive specialist Laura Mueller, rightside hitter Laurel Mueller, defensive specialist Maci Smith, outside hitter/server Allie Sprink and defensive specialist Miranda Wyatt.
Some of the players on Saxony’s volleyball team are dual sport, even three-sport athletes such as Laurel Mueller, who earned All-State honors in both basketball and soccer her junior year. She is teammates with Addison Beussink in basketball and plays both basketball and soccer with sophomore Makayla Mueller.
“I honestly think it’s really good because you get that conditioning year-round first off,” Coach Beussink said. “I was a dual-sport athlete, and I played with a lot of the same people in both sports. To be able to have that team chemistry to be able to communicate is huge especially in a sport like volleyball where communication is such a huge component of the game.”
With athletes playing with each other in more than one sport, there can be a focus on other than just players calling for the ball, according to Coach Beussink.
“We can focus on, ‘OK, you’re going to get it if it comes over here,’ and the different scenarios more than just the basics,” Coach Beussink said.
One of the scenarios Coach Beussink wants to have her players perfect this season is serve-receive because she said it is where all offenses begin.
“You can’t have your hitting offense doing their best without a good pass from the get go,” Coach Beussink said. “So, every single day we do serve-receive. It doesn’t matter if that’s the focus of the practice or not — we’re doing it because that is one thing we’re going to be dang good at. If you have a good pass, you’re expecting to have a good set, which you then expect to have a good hit.
“Since my hitters already know their approaches, they know their arm swings — it’s a matter of adjusting them now and getting the right sets. And making the sets lower and making them faster because all of that offense will come in play as long as we start with a good pass.”
Saxony starts its season in the Woodland Invitational, which is set to begin Aug. 22. The Crusaders will host their first game of the season against Sikeston on Aug. 31.