In recent years, the stars of the Niles North girls volleyball team have been its outside hitters.
Taylor Louis last year was named the CSL North player of the year, and current senior Amanda Green has similar strengths. They possess the height — both are taller than 6 feet — vertical leap and power to pound thunderous kills.
But the Vikings don’t have that height or type of firepower at outside hitter this year. Louis now plays for Marquette, and Niles North coach Mike Cott moved Green to right-side hitter to try to bolster Niles North’s defense against other teams’ attacking weapons.
Green remains the Vikings’ No. 1 offensive option, and juniors Carolyn Dwyer and Nina Yonan are now outside hitters. Both are undersized for the position — Dwyer is 5-6, Yonan is 5-5 — and their roles are much different than Green’s and Louis’ a year ago.
“We’re not asking them to be Taylor or Amanda,” Cott said. “What we’re asking them to do is be great passers in serve-receive. We’re asking them to play great defense and we’re asking them to keep plays alive when they are set — so hit spots, put the opposing team in tough situations where they can’t run their offense and be in system [like] they want to do. As long as they can play mistake-free volleyball and extend rallies, we’ll eventually be able to get the ball to Amanda Green.”
A major facet of mistake-free volleyball is avoiding hitting errors, which Dwyer and Yonan can do by emphasizing ball placement and control over sheer power.
“I can’t just think about hitting the ball as hard as I can, because it could go out,” Yonan said. “That’s where placement comes into it. When you’re shorter, that’s how you get more kills — put the ball where they’re [the opposing team’s players are] not.”
The way Dwyer and Yonan hit the ball depends on a couple different factors. If the set from senior Addy Leopoldo is perfect and their timing is right, then both players have the OK from their coach to try to crush the ball into an open spot on the court.
If one of those elements isn’t perfect, or if the duo senses two defenders loading up to attempt a block, a tip or roll shot is a better option to try to extend the point.
“It’s not about getting kills all the time,” Dwyer said. “We’re not Taylor Louis, we’re not Amanda, we’re not 6-foot. We just have to just do the job, and put it in play as best as we can.”