|Broncos grab 8 wins during bumpy 2010 campaign|
|Written by Wauneta Breeze|
|Thursday, 11 November 2010 20:40|
By Josh Sumner
The Wauneta Breeze
Evaluating the performance of the Bronco volleyball team during its topsy-turvy 8-16 season is comparable to unravelling clues to a complicated riddle.
Head Coach Michelle Harchelroad was often befuddled as she tried to come up with answers for her team’s unpredictable play.
“I felt like we had a lot of talent,” said Harchelroad. “But it didn’t seem like they could all play their best game on the same night.”
Lack of effort, however, was not the problem, insisted Harchelroad.
“The girls never quit,” said Harchelroad. “They came to practice everyday and gave me 110 percent. They could have given up, but they didn’t. They kept working hard.”
Wauneta-Palisade never seemed to find its stride during the season, as the netters finished with a sub .500 record for the first time since 2007.
Reasons for the Broncos’ inconsistency on the court this season remain a mystery to those who regularly watched the team play. However, a quick analysis of the level of competition Wau-Pal faced this year might help shed light.
The combined winning percentage of the teams the Broncos beat in their eight wins this year was a meager 21 percent. Conversely, Wau-Pal’s 16 losses came against teams with a combined winning percentage of 66 percent.
Put simply — the Broncos easily handled most bad teams, but were swiftly defeated when facing solid competition.
The clearest microcosm of the season may have come at its end during the Broncos’ subdistrict performance at Perkins County.
Wauneta-Palisade wiped the floor with their first-round opponent Hayes Center (whom they went 3-1 against during the year) before being trounced by Wallace (which won all three matches against WP this season).
The fact that nearly all the Broncos’ matches this season were decided in straight sets — only four games required an extra frame, and not a single contest went to tiebreaker — serves as further proof that Wau-Pal didn’t play a lot of close matches.
Despite nearly two months of ups and downs, Harchelroad had no trouble coming up with the season’s bright spots. One of the best matches of the season came in the form of an early loss, said Harchelroad.
“Toward the beginning of the season we played Southwest tough,” said Harchelroad. “We gave them a solid game. I thought the girls really showed their ability that night.”
The hard-fought road loss to Southwest (25-5), a team two classes higher than Wauneta-Palisade, showed Harchelroad what her players were made of. It also helped her figure out how to implement an unconventional offensive pattern that helped baffle future opponents.
“We started running a back set from Laura to Bethany,” said Harchelroad. “A lot of teams don’t see it unless you have a left-handed dominant hitter. Everything usually comes out of the middle or the right side. At times we caught teams off-guard with it.”
The scheme worked as Laura Rundback and Bethany Riener, both seniors, led the team in total points with 132 and 161 respectively.
Riener truly played all over the court for the Broncos. She led the team in multiple categories, including set assists with 262. That 10.9 per-game clip was especially impressive considering she only committed 16 setting errors on the season. Riener’s 48 ace serves also led the team.
Rundback contributed 152 total set assists, a 6.3 per-game average, with only 25 errors on the season.
Team libero and senior Shelby Hamilton, who was lost for the final three games of the year after sustaining a season-ending injury, led the Broncs with 266 total digs.
Senior Jenae Bischoff, the team’s fourth leading point scorer (92), had a solid all-around season with 70 kills, 9 set assists, 58 digs and 35 ace serves.
Rebecca Strand, also a well-rounded veteran in her senior season, was the fifth leading point scorer (79) thanks to 170 digs, 11 set assists, 56 kills and 28 ace serves.
The five aforementioned seniors, all of which were starters, will be tough to supplant, said Harchelroad.
“The hardest thing to replace is experience,” said Harchelroad. “I’m going to miss them.”
Harchelroad will have reinforcements on her roster next season, led by junior Sheyla Christner.
Christner, who was the team’s most lethal player near the net, led the team in kills (134) and blocks (56) for the season. She was third in total points scored with 113. Her well-rounded game allowed her to contribute in other areas, too, as she added 170 digs and 32 ace serves for the year.
Fellow junior Jonee Maris, who played a strong supporting role on the varsity team in 2010, will also return next season. Maris had 52 set assists, 38 digs, 26 kills and 13 blocks on the season.
Underclassmen Abbie Fanning, Tailor Lee, Brooklyn Nordhausen and Emma Skelton — all of whom played major varsity minutes — will be expected to make big contributions next year.
“We’re going to be very young next season,” said Harchelroad. “This was a great group of senior girls, but the group coming up is a great group, too.”
Unity and teamwork were among the goals achieved during the Bronco volleyball team’s 8-16 season. Above, members of the team share words of encouragement as they prepare to take to the court. (Josh Sumner | The Wauneta Breeze)