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PRINCETON — After last year’s team graduated eight seniors, the Princeton volleyball team knew it was going to have a challenge this year.
However, the new team is ready for the Three Rivers Conference East Division and Class 2A competition as it takes a step down from Class 3A.
“I’m not going to lie, it would have been nice the last couple of years but what’s done is done,” said Princeton coach Andy Puck of dropping to 2A. “With a new group anything is possible. At the end of this season my kids will be ready whether it’s 2A or 3A. Class 2A is quite a bit easier, especially the last few years with (La Salle-Peru), Rock Falls, Sterling and Morris.
“But the 2A teams around here are going to be competitive. I think Bureau Valley is going to be the best team in the region. I know St. Bede hosts the regionals and it will be interesting to see who gets there. St. Bede is improved. Hall is much improved.”
DETERMINATION The new-look Tigresses have installed a work ethic to not only get better than last year’s 28-8 record but to excel in the new season.
“I’ve seen a lot of girls busting their butts,” senior middle hitter Abby Jaques said. “We’re starting to come together as a team. We’re working together and starting to know each other as players. We got to talk more, but we’re starting to get used to that, knowing who is next to us and getting a rotation.”
Up front, the new rotation includes Jaques and junior Madison Menzel in the middle hitting position, along with returning starter junior Hailey Schultz and freshman Anna Murray at outside hitter.
Junior Tieg Sisler will also see time at middle, while senior Brianna Barajas takes over the setter position for Michelle Kelly, who graduated after being named the 2012 NT Volleyball Player of the Year and earning a spot on the 2013 NT All-Area Team.
NEW OFFENSE The offensive-minded Puck is working in a new technique that he said cannot be found on Google or YouTube.
“I’m running a new offense this year and I’m still trying to feel things out,” Puck said. “It’s kind of a no-middle offense where my kids will play middle but they’re also going to play outside. My setter is actually going to block out of the middle. We’ll split hits as much as possible to get a one-on-one battle instead of that one-on-two battle.
“I made up an offense a couple years ago that I dub a 5-2. It’s not necessarily a 6-2 or a 5-1. My quicker setter is going to set out of the back row and my taller, better blocker is going to set out of the front row and they will sub for one another.”
Puck said his team may not be tall but its quickness, athleticism and hunger to win will motivate it to succeed with the new concepts of his offense.
BACK ROW Senior Keyenna Altizer will be at libero, while senior Sierra Storm will be at right back and junior Madyson Cain will be at left back as well as being one of Princeton’s best servers.
Puck said his back-row unit has been playing well and will help the front row shine. Schultz agrees with Puck about the front needing the back and thinks the mental game of both units will help this team throughout the season.
“I think one thing that we have over many teams is we are mentally tough,” Schultz said. “One thing Puck tells us all the time is ‘Remember the physical game but also the mental game’ because you could be a stellar athlete but you have to have the brains to keep calm.” Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.
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