With a quick glance across the gym during practice this week, head coach Johnna Kinney could quickly see this year’s Archers would be a very different group from the 2012 version.
Armed with a 14-player roster, Kinney expects depth to be a strength in 2013, a change from having just 10 players to deploy last year.
What the Archers have in numbers will have to account for a lack of size, as most of the team’s hitters will be lined up against much taller counterparts this season.
“We don’t have a lot of height, so we told them their strength is going to be working together and communicating,” Kinney said. “Height is important in volleyball, but in years past, we’ve lost to teams who were shorter than us because they didn’t give up on the ball. They played incredible defense, and that’s our focus. We’re definitely developing our hitters, but we’re thinking defense is going to be our strength this year.”
Among the team’s 14 players are only two returners, sophomores Riley Lammert (Oakville) and Eryca Sutherlin (Hazelwood Central).
Offensively, the Archers will look to freshman middle hitter Ashley Muenks (Fatima) and outside hitter Jacki Long (Columbus, Ohio), among others.
The 6-0 Muenks remains undaunted by the challenge of opposing taller hitters in her first year collegiately.
“It won’t be too difficult,” Muenks said. “I played two years of middle (hitter) in high school with a lot of girls who are 6-3 and 6-4, so I’m used to it.”
Long, 24, took a most circuitous route to joining the Archers. A non-traditional student who had not played since her sophomore year in high school, she attended an offseason workout with a friend. Long impressed Kinney enough to secure a roster spot for this fall.
“I was working and playing for school, and it was an opportunity to be able to have school paid for,” Long said. “I just happened to tag along to an open gym, and it just happened by chance to fall into place.”
While her age may give her an added opportunity to assume a vocal leadership role among her younger teammates, Long has attempted to lead more through her actions in the early going.
“I mainly try to lead by example and hustle, more so than opening my mouth, but I’ve worked on talking a bit more, being an encourager,” Long said.
The Archers will open the 2013 slate Aug. 22, when they travel to Southwestern Illinois College. The team will return home for its first home game at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 4 against East Central College. The Archers’ home matches are played at the college’s Florissant Valley gymnasium.