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By Jimmie Earls
Sun Sports Writer
The 2009 Washington County Commanderette volleyball team is shaping up to be a competitive force this year. In addition to a returning core of veterans and adding some young prospects to the squad, the team also has an intimidating force in 6’ 4” junior middle hitter Ange Umulisa.
The Commanderettes finished with a 15-17 record last year. After going 14-15 in the regular season, WC went 1-1 in district play and lost in the first round of the regional tournament.
In the 2008 district final against Nelson County, the Commanderettes lost the first game 25-19 and dropped the second game 26-24. That slim margin of victory proved that even the smallest mistakes can affect play, and those are some things that head coach Brett Hudson hopes to improve upon for the 2009 season.
“I always try to emphasize the fundmentals,” said Hudson. “That’s not all that wins a volleyball game, but it’s a lot of it. If we can’t make a simple pass to our setter, then everything else is affected. Mentally, I tell them not to overcomplicate things, just play our style of volleyball. Physically, I’m having them do more exercises this year, such as push-ups, jumping rope and abdominal exercises so they can get more power in their swings.”
Something that Hudson implemented in 2008 was the use of the libero, a defensive specialist who must remain on the back line, may not serve, block or attempt to block and must wear a different colored shirt. Last year, Jaclyn Kelty stepped into the role and Hudson looks for her to return to that position.
“I think it made a huge difference with her playing on the back row last year,” Hudson added. “She was such a consistent passer. It really set the tone for a lot of the games we played. I suspect she will return to that role this year. It depends on how the other girls are passing on the back row. Volleyball is a game of momentum, so when you’re down, all you need is one good pass to hit and it totally flips the game around.”
Rwanda native Ange Umulisa came to Washington County last October and played for the Commanderette basketball team last season. While it took her a while to learn to play basketball, volleyball is the sport she is more familiar with, although it’s a slightly different style of play.
“Ange has been used to playing a different rotation,” Hudson said. “I think she’ll play a big factor this year. I see the most promise in her front-row play. She hits the ball well and her blocking is exceptional. She can stand flat-footed and be over the net about a foot and a half just by reaching her arms up. We also have some height in Sarah Colvin and Clare Smith and they’ll be just as big an asset.”
The 2009 squad features five senior players: Katherine Fields, Olivia Taylor, Kelly Hill, Clare Smith and Shannon Wethington. With a core that has been together for four years, Hudson looks for communication to play a key role in the Commanderettes’ success.
Hudson added, “Communication is another one of those simple fundamentals. You have to be able to pass consistently and you have to talk to each other. Those seem like small things, but they make a world of difference. Our seniors have played together going on four years, so their chemistry is pretty good.”
Hudson said the key to a successful season will be teamwork.
“I just want their best effort,” he said. “I want to see the girls do everything they can do to make this team successful. They need to think of their teammates before themselves. I think we have some good talent and I think we can win the district this year. They need to play every point and show me they want it.”