While many other area sports teams are well into their fall seasons, the Calvary Lutheran volleyball team has been patiently waiting for its season opener to arrive.
Today's the day.
The Lady Lions will get a chance to see if all that extra preseason work has paid off when they host the Belle Lady Tigers at 7 p.m. at the Trinity Lutheran gym.
"It's been nice having the extra practices," Calvary coach Nikki Kueck said. "But we're ready to see how it's going to go. The girls are all excited."
In previous seasons, the extra time might not have amounted to much, as the Lady Lions have often had to cope with small rosters. But with a whopping 15 players in the system, the preseason has been much more productive.
"It's definitely nice to have enough girls to scrimmage," Kueck said.
And it's helped up the intensity of practices.
"The girls realize the importance of being on the varsity," Kueck said. "Not everybody gets to be on it because there's just eight girls. It makes for a little competition."
The Lady Lions will carry 10 on the varsity roster, and it's a squad brimming with youth. Calvary has no seniors, as four juniors will join three sophomores and three freshmen. So having some extra time to work before the first game might not have been such a bad thing.
"I think we're ready for our game (today)," Kueck said. "We've covered all the fundamentals I wanted to and covered I guess what you would call the complexities of volleyball - getting them well-rounded for their responsibilities and prepared for specific situations.
"They've been working really hard and showing me they have a lot of potential."
Much of that extra work has centered around replacing a graduated setter who led the offense for three seasons.
"That was a big hole to fill," Kueck said.
Making it even more daunting is the Lady Lions will be running a 6-2 offense, with the two setters being a freshman and a sophomore. Jessica Stark, the sophomore, got some limited varsity time at the end of last season, including the district tournament. Rebecca Thompson, a freshman, is the other setter.
"With no seniors on my team this year, it was worth that leap of faith to bring along a freshman and sophomore (to lead the team)," Kueck said. "I've got these players for at least two years together, so we can kind of use this year as a building year to learn positions, and then next year will be our year to shine."
Those two will be setting to a pair of outside hitters, junior Emily Layson and sophomore Kara Bernskoetter. Joining them in the starting lineup are two middle hitters, junior Megan Abbott and freshman Katie Goodin.
Junior Krista Stanford will serve as the defensive specialist, while players expected to contribute off the bench include junior Jena Fischer, sophomore Savannah Laird and freshman Brooke Rawlins