Senior volleyball players Skye Lambshead left and Rebecca Archibald touch hands during a bumping drill while head coach Steve Smith at back monitors the time at a pre-season practice on Wednesday Nov. 20 at the Haliburton Highlands Secondary School. Smith leads the seniors taking over from last year’s coach Dan Gimon./DARREN LUM Staff

Red Hawks looking to be a contender 

Even though the Red Hawks senior girls’ volleyball team lost a core group of players from its Central Ontario Secondary School Associations championship finalist team head coach Steve Smith isn’t lowering expectations this year.

Last year’s team which was coached by Dan Gimon were a match shy of an all-provincial final berth losing to Quinte Christian High School Eagles 0-3. The second place finish was a brilliant silver lining to the season that ended with a loss.

Smith believes in the players on the team this year and isn’t even hinting at anything else but a return to being among the top again.

“It doesn’t change. It doesn’t change” he said. “I put it out there in front of them like a carrot and just said ‘This is where I hope to be and you guys need to work towards it.’”

He added when the Hawks walk into an opposing school’s gym that the other team expects a competitive game. Any loss will be by two points rather than 10 or 12 he said.

“That’s how competitive they want to be this year so they have agreed to that sort of game plan that we have. So they’re working towards it.”

The team is preparing for the season by working on the fundamentals in the pre-season Smith said.

Continuity is a strength of the program and will help players moving up from junior.

Smith said the program’s system of play hasn’t changed for the past decade which is the five-one – one setter with five hitters.

This year’s team will feature two liberos (one being Ruthie Parker) and a defensive specialist. Alyssa Bogardis is expected to be the specialist but will also be super utility player who will be used at four spots (setting libero defence and serving).  Although two liberos can’t be on the floor at once a defensive specialist can share the floor with a libero.

Although the team had lost power players Dakota MacDonald and Natalya Gimon and veteran setter Arden Harrop the team has gained first-year senior Haley Boylan who was the junior setter last year.

Boylan’s knowledge of the system will help in the move up. Emma Casey returns as setter for her second year. Skye Lambshead and Alexius Mills were mentioned as among several to step into the power position.

For the next two years Smith will helm the seniors while Gimon will coach the juniors.

The team’s first league action will be on the road the first week of December.

Their first home tournament won’t be until the new calendar year which will test the organizational skills of the Hawks players who will be forced to travel hours to play.

“Huge difference is the girls have to be prepared academically as well as physically. So the demands on them are a little more academically than physically but it just means it’s a longer day so all the ones we go to are tournaments. So it’s a long day. They’ve got to be mentally prepared physically prepared and academically they have to stay on top of their homework” he said.

A tentative schedule has been made but nothing has been confirmed.