Whitney Woody wants Savannah Kjolhede to be in the middle of everything. More than that, the Grapevine volleyball coach needs her 6-2 middle blocker to be a presence.
A year of learning the life as a varsity player in 2016 is now transitioning to 2017, when the expectations will be higher. The Lady Mustangs are still an experienced team. However, they are transitioning in some new faces.
“The great thing about Savannah is that when you set high expectations, she’s going to do everything she can to meet them,” said Woody, who is about to begin her second year at Grapevine. “Our middle blockers work super hard in practice. But we expect a lot out there.”
Kjolhede’s varsity career began rocky when she sprained an ankle at the Pearland tournament. That kept her out of the lineup for quite some time. When she did return, Whitney rotated her between right side and the middle.
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She’s going to surprise some people. Her speed and aggressiveness will make her a presence on the front row.
Grapevine volleyball coach Whitney Woody on MB Savannah Kjolhede
Ultimately, Woody decided that the middle would be better suited for her and her team. Midway through the District 8-5A season, Kjolhede was established in the middle.
Woody also had an eye on the future. Advancing to the postseason wasn’t in doubt. With Hailey Johnson graduating, it was time for Kjolhede to move into a position she’s probably going occupy for the next three years.
Grapevine finished 2016 34-15, second in 8-5A behind rival Colleyville Heritage and advanced to the Region I quarterfinals. For her part, Kjolhede had 118 kills in 250 attempts (47 percent) and nearly 88 percent of her blocks were solo. She only played in 74 sets.
“She has that certain aggression that you need in the middle,” Woody said. “We want to run our offense through the middle. Seeing her grow and how she has played, we want her to get to as many balls as she can.”
“Kjolhede” is pronounced “COLE-heed.”
There is really no time off for a volleyball player. The sport has become year round. Kjolhede was finishing her club season in the national tournament this past week. She’s been playing on the right side. Once that finishes, her Division I recruiting intensifies.
Interest is coming from TCU, Michigan, Michigan State, Pepperdine and Hawaii. The plan is for her to travel and camp with several of those programs at the end of July.
Grapevine’s team camp then starts the final week of July before there is a week of warm up beginning on Aug. 1. The season begins Aug. 7. Grapevine is making a change in its schedule. It’s dropping one of its three tournaments in the Northwest ISD. It’s keeping Pearland and Plano.
Still, Woody needs to see the dominance emerge. Woody saw Kjolhede become the lynchpin of the offense toward the end of 2016. Whether opponents will expect her to be a presence offensively to deal with will be discovered as the season progresses. Expecting double-digit kills per game will be part of it.
“With a lot of strong personalities on our team last year, it took her a season to find her stride,” Woody said. “I really saw her grow and emerge. I told her she’s the secret weapon on our team because nobody is expecting her to do it.
“She’s going to surprise some people. Her speed and aggressiveness will make her a presence on the front row.”