Genoa-Kingston has made a steady progression under coach Keith Foster in the past three years.
While in the rebuilding process, the team has posted a 54-51 record, but entering 2013 Foster thinks that phase is complete.
He’s steadily increased the Cogs’ strength of schedule, dropping 2A schools and adding 3A tournaments.
“It’s not preparing you for regionals and the playoffs (with the 2A schools),” Foster said. “This year we do have a much stronger schedule.”
Foster helped start Aggression, a new club volleyball program and has seen a huge jump in players who do volleyball-related activities during the offseason.
“Just about every player on our team is a club player or involved in club in some aspect,” Foster said. “Three years ago we had a total of four club players in the entire system.”
Now an experienced team, led by all-state libero Olivia Cotton, seems ready to compete and win, each night.
“Every year this program has made progress,” Foster said. “We’re looking forward to kind of taking the next step and beating some of those teams that are regular contenders.”
Adjusting to a new coach: Often times the talk around a new coach is how the players will adjust to a new coaching style, a new playing system and a new way of practicing.
But lost in the shuffle are the adjustments a coach has to make to his new surroundings.
First-year Hiawatha coach Rick Koselke has never coached in the Little Ten Conference before. He’ll eventually have to form scouting reports on Hiawatha’s conference opponents, but some of the other basics will come first.
“It’s a learning experience for me,” Koselke said. “Some of these schools, I couldn’t tell you where they’re at on a map.”
VIEWS: Inexperience tricky to handle at start
It’s never an easy task for coaches to take an inexperienced team and navigate them through the beginning of the season.
After the dead period during summer, coaches have roughly two weeks of practice before regular season matches and tournaments begin.
Then they’re thrown into the fire.
“I’ve got half a starter back from last year,” Hiawatha coach Rick Koselke said. “I’ve got one senior who played maybe half the games last year. I didn’t realize that.”
Koselke said he’s had to work on the basic fundamentals with his team, most of which played on the frosh/soph level in 2012. But it’s been difficult to get much practice time with a bevy of matches to start.
“I wish we hadn’t had three games the first week,” Koselke said. “That only gave us one practice between the three games so you couldn’t really work on anything. We’ve had four games and two practices in six days.”
Indian Creek had the opposite problem. Two matches were canceled last week because of the heat so the Timberwolves didn’t play their first match until Tuesday.
“Playing in summer league doesn’t really prepare you, it helps but there’s still huge learning curve,” Indian Creek coach Stephanie Crutcher said. “We’re trying to get them to things at the varsity level that they might not have done at the frosh/soph level.”
Crutcher said the lack of matches meant practices weren’t as efficient. Without making mistakes in matches, she didn’t know what things needed to be corrected.
Maintaining a balance between matches and practices is always critical for a young team. Of course, sometimes there are situations coaches can’t do much about.
“I asked them how many were nervous [before the season opener] and the majority of them said they were really nervous,” Crutcher said.
• Ross Jacobson is the sports editor for the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ellie Dunn, jr., Kaneland
Dunn recorded a match-high 12 kills in Kaneland’s three-game loss to Burlington Central on Tuesday.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
DeKalb at Geneva tournament, 9 a.m. Saturday
After their home opener on Tuesday, the Barbs jump right into a tough tournament on the road.
Genoa-Kingston at Harvard, 6 p.m. Tuesday
The Cogs get another chance early in the season to prove they will be a contender for the Big Northern Conference East Division title.
1. DeKalb (1-0) – Looked good in first set against Harvest Christian, struggled in second.
2. Genoa-Kingston (1-0) – Experienced team with high expectations this year.
3. Kaneland (3-3) – Still getting used to first-year head coach Kerri McCastland.
4. Hinckley-Big Rock (3-0) – Perfect start for the Royals to begin season.
5. Sycamore (1-1) – Opening win over Plano followed by loss to Rock Island.
6. Indian Creek (0-1) – Timberwolves fell in opener to Plano.
7. Hiawatha (0-4) – Very young team learning under new head coach.