Sports

Defending their court | Prep volleyball preview

Senior captains (from left) Brooke Behrbaum, Felicia Ng and Olivia Hughes.   - Joseph Livarchik/Mercer Island Reporter
Senior captains (from left) Brooke Behrbaum, Felicia Ng and Olivia Hughes.
— image credit: Joseph Livarchik/Mercer Island Reporter

Mercer Island volleyball had high expectations going into its 2012 season, only to see those hopes dashed early in the state tournament. The experience affected how the Islanders approached their season the following year.

“Last year, we didn’t even set our major postseason goals until after we finished our first round through KingCo ,” said senior captain Brooke Behrbaum. “We try to postpone that toward the end, so we really focus on our league and improving our individual skills and how we work as a team. It’s more about the now instead of the future.”

After winning its first-ever state title, Mercer Island volleyball is set to begin its title defense, and the team is doing so by once again tempering expectations.

“If we’re not underdogs, I don’t know how other teams might view us,” said coach Susan McKay. “I think it was really nice for us all last year being underdogs and no one expecting us to win state except for ourselves. I think now, having the title of defending state champions, I think there’s automatically a little bit of a bullseye on you.”

The team defending its title looks a little different from last year’s group.  The Islanders lost nine players from last year’s team, including KingCo Co-MVP and state tournament MVP, Sarah Lindquist.

“I don’t think there’s one person who’s going to replace her,” said McKay. “I think realistically, my goal is to have a slightly different team in the sense that last year we had a really predictable offense and we were constantly just setting the outsides. My goal is to have a more well-rounded offense so that we are spreading the ball around, which is more difficult for other teams to defend against and it means that we can rely on more players. So I think our team will be better if we don’t try to just fill one role, I think the goal is to be a more balanced team. Trying to make a new Sarah Lindquist in one year is not going to happen.”

The Islanders will look to its five returning members to mentor younger players through the more intense moments, similar to the environment they played through at the state tournament last year. Team defense is a focus for the Islanders, fittingly enough for a defending state champ.

And as they go out and defend their title, the Islanders will work toward making sure they don’t get ahead of themselves.

“We want to set more immediate goals and focus on one match at a time,” said McKay. “My biggest goal for the team is, and we’ve done this pretty well in the past but not ever completely achieved it, where we’ve actually played well in every single regular season match. Sometimes we have letdowns or games we don’t take as seriously, the goal is to always play at a high level no matter who the opponent is. Play our game, it doesn’t matter who’s on the other side of the court, play our level all the time.”

 

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