Lady Tigers boast talented, experienced roster
Expectations are high for the Nevada Lady Tiger volleyball team, as head coach Ashley Thoreson’s squad returns to the court with its roster fully intact from last season’s 16-win campaign.
“We return the same roster, with the exception of one player, so our expectations are set high,” Thoreson told the Daily Mail. “This group of juniors and seniors is very competitive, and has worked really hard over the summer to improve their team chemistry on and off the court, which is very important in volleyball.”
The Lady Tigers were in rebuilding mode last year after losing the bulk of their varsity rotation to graduation at the conclusion of the 2016-17 school year. The 2016 season was a special one for the Lady Tiger volleyball program, after having captured the Class 3 District 12 crown.
“When evaluating this team, I compare us to our district championship team two years ago,” noted Thoreson. “These girls have been playing together (for a while) and are very comfortable with each other on the court. They are competitive, and also know how to have fun, so that the game isn’t taken too seriously. We have height, knowledge, scrappiness, and passion for the game. It’s going to be a fun season.”
Key returning players are numerous, and include senior front row standouts Adrian Bond and Sydney Ernsbarger, senior setter Hailey Jackson, and top-flight juniors Stacy Pennington and Lani Coonrod.
“Our strengths will be our aggressiveness on offense, and having several options on our attack,” explained Thoreson. “We have 11 juniors and seniors that are working to find positions on the court. Our attackers are much more powerful than they were last year, and they have also learned to see the court better, making us hard to defend. We also have a very scrappy back row that reads (the ball) well, so we can get to and play the ball much more than I feel our teams have been able to in the past.”
Thoreson said that to-date she sees no weaknesses with her team.
“I honestly can’t pick an area of the game that I truly feel we will be weak in,” said the ninth-year head coach. “With 11 girls, we are able to really focus on each area of our game in practices, and use drills that are both competitive and focus on all skills. We have an athletic group, so many of our players are versatile and can play several roles/positions on the team.”
Added Thoreson: “With so many returners, and most of them having played club volleyball over the winter, it’s easy to say that every player on our roster has improved greatly from last season. The majority of the roster has years of varsity experience under their belt, and knows the level of play we will have to be at to compete with the top teams in our area.”
Thoreson said one major adjustment for her squad is Nevada’s move from the West Central Conference to the Big 8.
“We have a whole new schedule, so that makes it hard to gauge where we will stand against many of these teams,” said Thoreson. “We will look at every team on our schedule to be our top competition, as we have not seen any of the teams in our conference in regular season. Our first match is against Mt. Vernon (Aug. 30), which was also the team that ended our season last year at districts. So our first match will be a big test to see where we stand. And we are anxiously waiting to see who will be in our district this year and next.”
Adrian Bond, Sr., outside hitter.
Bond, an extremely powerful hitter, led the Lady Tigers in kills last season, was second on the team in digs, and garnered All-District accolades.
“Adrian is expected to be a six-rotation outside (hitter) for us again this year,” said Thoreson. “She continues to grow as a player, and I know her senior year will be her best yet. She has worked hard on her consistency, and is powerful and aggressive on the outside. We will rely on her abilities, both front row and back row. She keeps her emotions in check and plays very consistent, even under pressure, which has helped lead to her successful career.”
Sydney Ernsbarger, Sr., middle blocker:
Ernsbarger finished second in kills for the Lady Tigers as a junior a season ago.
“Sydney has made great strides from last season, and has become a very effective blocker and attacker for us,” began Thoreson. “She is a smart player and brings a lot of energy and intensity. Having the option of two powerful hitters will make defending our attack that much harder.”
Stacy Pennington, Jr., libero, outside hitter:
“Stacy played libero for us last year, but will get to step into the front row as well this season,” said Thoreson. “Stacy will play as our other outside hitter, and I’m excited to see her show her abilities in the front row, as well as her scrappiness in the back row. She brings a lot of passion and knowledge to the court, and does a great job of leading by example.”
Hailey Jackson, Sr., setter:
“Hailey ran our offense last year, setting, and will continue to be one of our setters again this season,” confirmed Thoreson. “We have focused this off-season on quickening our offense, and Hailey is returning as a much smarter, more vocal leader and setter for us. She handles pressure well, and will keep a level-head in tough situations, which will be key as the season progresses.”
Lani Coonrod, Jr., defensive specialist:
“Lani will play an important role for us in the back row, and possibly even as a libero,” said Thoreson. “She reads well and can be counted on to go after any ball.”
Laiken Cussimanio, Sr., right-side hitter:
Said Thoreson: “Laiken will be looked at to be an aggressive blocker, and add another option to our offense.”
Lindley Ferry, Jr., middle blocker: “Lindley returns as our No. 2 middle blocker,” explained Thoreson of the current depth chart. “She’s quick, and sets a great block defensively that hitters will have a hard time with.”