Two juniors on the Fossil Ridge volleyball team see their limited experience as still a big plus for the Lady Panthers.
Returning all-district players Tori Woogk and Maci Matherne have that year of playing time under their belt which they feel can help establish a new reputation for the Lady Panthers.
Last season was a difficult season, as Fossil Ridge went winless in an albeit very tough district schedule.
Woogk acknowledges the team last year was very young, with just three seniors, and just as few this year.
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“But we’re older and wiser and have more experience on the court,” Woogk said.
The outside hitter has spent the summer playing select volleyball for the Knights out of Carrollton. The team went to the national tournament and finished in the top 50 teams from across the country.
Woogk is joined by fellow junior and libero Matherne, who made it a point to participate in several camps and played for the school’s summer league team over the the summer to improve her game.
Matherne said she worked on her ability to be more vertical, which at 5-2 ½” may not be as big of an issue at libero as one might think, she explained.
“I worked on my conditioning and getting to the ball faster,” Matherne said. “In the role of a libero, (height is) not a hindrance,” she said.
Coming in to her third year as starter, Matherne said she likes the feel of the position.
“I like being the one to touch the ball and to get the play going,” she said. “One of my goals is to make all-state. If it happens, it happens. If not, it’s not meant to be.”
Once the play gets going, players such as Woogk have built their skill level and confidence and expect good things to happen. But she said she still has plenty of areas where she’d like to improve.
“My service-receive,” Woogk said of an area for focus this year. “I want to start the whole play and get the pass set up for my teammates.”
Woogk also noted this year she will not just play the front row. Her back row play has helped her defense and rounds out her game.
“If we’re in a slump, I can be more offensive from in the back row and move better at digging out balls,” she said.
Some of the skills haven’t been improved by the physical talents, though.
“I’ve evolved as a player and as a person,” Woogk said. “I feel like from volleyball, I’ve learned how to work with people around me and how to play under pressure. I can talk to (teammates) and get them relaxed on the court,” she said of realizing she is taking on more of the leadership role this year.
That leadership is benefitting in other ways, too.
Matherne said this year’s team has more chemistry.
“We’re working well as a team,” she said. “It’s different than last year. The chemistry has changed and I think that will help us make the playoffs. I’ve matured this year with my play,” Matherne added, while also noting that going into a second year under head coach Jennifer Chandler makes a difference.
Last season was Chandler’s first as head coach at Fossil Ridge.
Matherne stated what may seem obvious, but said one of the team goals is to make the playoffs.
After last season, Woogk said some teams may take a win over the Lady Panthers for granted.
“We’ll push really hard for the playoffs and show everyone in the district we’re back and we’ll put up a fight,” Woogk said. “We’re not going to roll over and we’ll take some matches from people. I don’t think they’ll expect that from us.”