First-year coach Kerry Seyfurth admits she doesn’t know much about the other teams in the Great Northern Conference when it comes to volleyball.
“I just know that we pretty much finished at the bottom last year, and as a team we’ve set a goal that we aren’t going to settle for anything less than at least the middle,” Seyfurth said.
In order to accomplish that goal, Seyfurth and her Thunderbirds would have to finish fourth in the seven-team conference, a position LUHS hasn’t reached since at least 2007. Last season, the team struggled to a 1-11 record in conference and a 9-26 record overall.
But Seyfurth – the former freshman coach at Sheboygan South who also has taught on the club level – believes her team can do it.
“We’ve had our pep talk with our girls and we’ve agreed we’re never going to settle and we’ve agreed that we’re going to be competitive,” Seyfurth said. “It’s going to be a different look from year’s past; my girls right now aren’t the biggest fans of our coaching staff because we’ve been doing a lot of conditioning, but I don’t want my team to be the team that can’t finish the deciding set.”
Seyfurth plans on utilizing a 6-2 setting system, compared to the 5-1 that was run last year with the now-graduated Megan Harty, who was an honorable-mention all-GNC selection.
“Right now we’re leaning on a 6-2 but it’s really going to depend on how practice shapes up and the scrimmages in the next couple of days. I have the option of also running a 5-1; I’ve got a few setters on the team,” Seyfurth said.
Seyfurth said seniors Paige Courtney and Abby Scrom are the two setter candidates for the 6-2. Courtney was Harty’s back up last season, but Schrom didn’t play the position at all – racking up 86 digs and 39 kills in conference play last season primarily as a hitter – but has embraced the position.
“Abby wanted to play club volleyball this winter and she played with Eagle River girls, and the only way they would take her is if she chose to be a setter,” Seyfurth said. “So she took a new position and went with it.”
To help transition them into the 6-2, the T-Birds have the luxury of returning two hitters who saw plenty of varsity action aside from Schrom in Greta Saulic and Brina Trapp. Playing from the middle, Saulic was second on the team in conference kills with 52 while also supplying 13 blocks.
“Greta Saulic is one of our key players in the middle,” Seyfurth said. “I really don’t have a second middle hitter decided at this point because I have depth at every hitting position and it’s really just feeling out which girls work well with which setter. “
On the outside, Brina Trapp returns after finishing fourth on the team in conference kills a year ago with 33. A shoulder injury Trapp suffered over the offseason has healed and is looking good, according to Seyfurth.
“She’s looking very solid right now,” Seyfurth said. “She’s really a solid all-around player.”
Seyfurth also forsees Schrom getting in time at the outside hitting position when she isn’t setting.
To replace all-conference honorable-mention Katie Kloes at libero, Seyfurth has her eye on either Ellie DeMuth, Rachel Umbach, or varsity newcomer Demko Elm to claim the spot.
“It’s just going to come down to who’s going to give me the type of passes I’m looking for and who’s going to pass well for which setter,” Seyfurth said. “It’s all going to be about who’s gelling with which setter.”
Seyfurth is the fourth coach the LUHS volleyball program has had since longtime coach Steve Prahl retired after the 2009 season, so adapting to change will be important for Seyfurth and the T-Birds moving forward.
“The big key for us right now is getting all the girls on board to be accepting of what they’ve been offered and to really embrace change,” Seyfurth said. “I do foresee us being more competitive this year; the girls have a really heavy drive to improve from last year.”
The T-Birds opened the season at the Wausau West Quad Tuesday, before heading to the Menomonie Invite this weekend. Their first home match is slated for Thursday, Sept. 4, against Antigo.
Evan Wixom may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.