GOOCHLAND – With most of their players coming back, the 2019 Bulldogs are starting right where they left off last year – and they’re building from there.
After transitioning to a new head coach in Rachel Jacobsen last season, the players now know what Jacobsen’s about, she now knows what they’re about, and they’ve been working together really well going into Year 2 with Jacobsen at the helm.
“I think last year was a big rebuilding season, so I’m hoping this year, it’s going to be more based off of what we learned from last year – who can do what, who can put the ball in the right place – and basically just getting the right consistency,” said senior Libero Ellie Spencer. “We definitely have a lot of new talent to the team…that should be super fun to work with.”
“I think this year’s definitely about how far we get, because last year it was more: growing and building the team since we got a new coach” and had lost around seven players the year before, said senior middle Mary King. “I definitely like how connected we are because we are kind of spaced out – we have freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors – but a lot of us have been together since middle school or we play club, so we’ve grown through there, too.”
“I think everybody adds something to the team,” Spencer also said. “Everybody’s different, so there’s not one person that has everything perfect…I think we all round each other out pretty well.”
Goochland Volleyball’s experience-heavy rotation for the 2019 season will include King, Spencer, senior setter Trinity Wonderling, junior outside hitter Taylor Michaels and senior defensive specialist Ilaria Russell.
“I want to get every pass I can straight to Trin so she can give her perfect sets for our hitters,” Russell said. “When Trin makes a good set and I pass it, it makes me feel good about myself and my teammates.”
“I of course want to pass perfect – I think there’s a certain rush that you get when you pass the perfect ball…it all boils down to the same goal: winning and getting points,” Spencer said, adding that, “being a Libero, you kind of have to talk a lot, so I’m hoping to grow in that this season.”
From the setter’s position, Wonderling said that you “just try to give it your all to give it to the hitters, and I feel like it takes a lot of energy out of you to give to them, so you hope that they put the same energy in, and…they do…it feels good to know when they get a kill, you’re there to support them because you’re helping them and you have to be smart about what you do in the game…”
Of Michaels, Jacobsen added: “I’m really excited about her. She brings a lot of good energy and a lot of stability to the team; she’s got a really calm personality.”
Jacobsen is also excited about the height they’ll be bringing to the middle positions between King and one of the incoming freshmen, Nicole Brown. Another freshman, Nina Smith, will contribute to the team as a right side hitter.
“I think we definitely are 100 percent a better blocking team than…last year because we brought new players and new energy,” King added.
“We definitely need to work on it like any other team, but I think that the height’s there,” Jacobsen said of their blocking. “We just need to bring all those other pieces together, too.”
On their new freshmen teammates, Russell contributed: “From the looks of it, none of them feel like they’re not welcome – they feel like they’re part of the team and I think that’s really important.
“And we just all have fun,” Russell added. “We’re friends, too – we’re not just teammates.”
“I think it’s definitely important for us to show the younger kids what we know and how to be better, so when we leave, that they can remember those things…so they can teach younger kids,” Wonderling said.
The team this offseason has been able to hone in on elements like communication and bringing speed to the offense.
“We’re excited – they get along really well; they talk to each other outside of volleyball on top of it,” Jacobsen said of her players. “I think that’s going to bring a big advantage our way.”
They’re beginning the year with a lot more of their mental game in place, Jacobsen said – they’re going in a lot steadier.
“I hope we can do that and not get down when we’re down on the scoreboard,” Russell added, “and we can bring each other back up.”
The Bulldogs expect their serving to be a lot better right off the bat than it was to start out last year, therefore likely keeping the ball on Goochland’s side of the court for a lot longer.
They’re also definitely going to be working on some faster speed plays, Jacobsen said, as well as on combination positions, moving the players around and having them be ready for anything – and also on having the girls play multiple positions so that they can add some surprise attacks to their repertoire.
One of Goochland Volleyball’s goals was to see more teams than the unit normally does; the Bulldogs are accomplishing that through two different tournaments in which they’ll be playing this year: one at The Steward School on Aug. 24, and another at Richmond Volleyball Club, currently slated for Aug. 30-31.
“That’ll give us some idea of what we need to work on and build on from there before we get into our more regular season games,” Jacobsen said.
“It’s going to be a very different season than it was last year,” she added. “We’re excited for that and we’re definitely working in the beginning and throughout to prepare for that postseason play.”
The girls are excited, which makes Coach Jacobsen excited.
“I’m really excited to play together as a team,” Russell said. “We’re growing together as people – I’ve been playing with these girls since eighth grade – and seeing them grow, it’s amazing.”
“I’m excited to start playing again since it’s our senior year,” Wonderling said. “We’re going to give it our all.”
“I know the seniors are really focused on making this year a great year,” Jacobsen said, “which brings the rest of the girls up, too, because everybody’s ready and happy to be here.”