By DAVE HANNEMAN
Justin Rohrer needed two adjectives to describe last year’s Findlay High volleyball team.
This season, he’s down to one.
“Last year we were young and inexperienced,” Rohrer said. “We’re still young, but you can’t really say we’re inexperienced anymore.”
Findlay graduated three players from last year’s 5-18 team. This year’s roster has just two seniors on it. The upside is that Findlay returns several varsity letterwinners, especially in a large junior class.
But Rohrer, who had successive records of 7-15, 13-12 and 18-5 at Willard before taking over Findlay High’s program last year, warns that the Trojans still have a long path ahead of them to achieve the kind of letters — Ws — that he wants to see.
“A lot of people say, ‘Well, you’re returning a lot of players, so you’re going to be a better team,'” Rohrer said.
“You don’t just get better because you’re one year older. You don’t just get better because you’re one year more experienced. You have to practice better, play better and win more games. That’s our goal this year.”
Graduation cost Findlay a second-team all-Three Rivers Athletic Conference standout in Grace Blatnik and Claire Bishop, an honorable mention all-league pick. Alexis Buddelmeyer, a promising sophomore outside hitter, has been lost for the season with a torn ACL.
Still, Rohrer will be seeing a lot of familiar faces in the pre-match huddle.
Kristen Scherger, a junior middle hitter, returns after earning honorable mention all-TRAC honors a year ago. Defensive specialist Claire Doepker and outside hitter Jessica Tremains are the senior veterans on the team, while junior outside hitters Shannon Klotz and Sammy Vance and sophomore middle hitter Aubrey Hucke are all returning letterwinners.
Juniors Caitlyn Lentz (outside hitter), Kirsten Selhorst (middle hitter), Kylie Britton (setter) and Libby Sapp (defensive specialist) and sophomore Ashleh Robinson (setter) did not letter, but all saw some varsity time last season.
Heading into his second season, Rohrer is hoping that experience allows him to jump ahead a few pages in the playbook.
“Last year was all about new concepts,” he said. “We played a lot of different lineups, a lot of different players. We played a lot of different defenses. It was all part of the learning process, what was working for us and what was best for our girls position-wise.
“This year, nothing is going to be new to them. The things we are doing are things we’ve been doing for over a year now, plus two summers. We know what the person next to us is doing, we know what offense we want, we know what our goals are and I think that will help a lot.”
Technically, Rohrer knows Findlay has to improve in statistical areas.
“We have to be an aggressive serving team,” he said. “Obviously we have to be a great defensive team, we have to keep the ball in play, and we can’t make errors on the offensive end.”
And when you’re the underdog squaring off in league play against a powerhouse opponent like Toledo St. Ursula, a two-time state champion, six-time state finalist and 12-time state qualifier, Rohrer knows the intangibles come into play as well.
“We have to outwork everybody and we have to play smart,” he said. “There are things we can do to stay competitive in every match and we have to find those things that other people don’t think about and keep those teams on their toes as long as possible.”
Aug. 20 at Sylvania Northview, 7 p.m.
Aug. 22 Sylvania Southview, 6 p.m.
Aug. 24 Huron, 1 p.m.
Aug.28 at Lima Senior (TRAC), 6 p.m.
Sept. 4 at Toledo Notre Dame (TRAC), 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 at Coldwater Tri-Match, 2 p.m.
Sept. 10 Oregon Clay (TRAC), 6 p.m.
Sept. 14 Perrysburg, noon
Sept. 16 at Toledo Whitmer, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 19 Tol. Central Catholic (TRAC), 6 p.m.
Sept. 21 at Springfield Tri-Match, 9 a.m.
Sept. 24 at Defiance, 7 p.m.
Sept. 26 Fremont Ross (TRAC), 6 p.m.
Oct. 2 at Norwalk St. Paul, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 3 at Toledo St. Ursula (TRAC), 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 5 Springfield, noon
Oct. 7 at Anthony Wayne, 6 p.m.
Oct. 10 Toledo Whitmer (TRAC), 6 p.m.
Oct. 12 Tiffin Columbian, noon