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  • Val T.

First-year coach Strasser hopes Rochester volleyball adopts uptempo style

“What intensity level I feel like you practice is how you’re going to play.”


Sports Editor, RTC

Rochester first-year volleyball coach Laneia Strasser has said she is a fast-paced person who likes volleyball because it is a fast-paced sport.

So will the Lady Zs be a fast-paced team? Well, that’s the plan as Strasser has established a faster pace in practice loaded with objectives.

But While a tempo might already have been established, much is still to be determined with the scrimmage against Northwestern coming up on Thursday and the season opener against Plymouth two days after that.

For example, will Rochester run a one-setter or two-setter system? How many freshmen will make the varsity, and how many will split time between the varsity and the JV? And with only one senior on the team in Keyton Doran, how will team-building work?

Strasser has addressed this with what she calls a “big sister, little sister” program.

“Every upperclassman has an underclassman that they’re responsible for,” Strasser said. “A lot of the time when we do warm-up drills and anything team-building, you’re with your big sister or your little sister. Or if we’re going to do a conditioning drill, the big sister is going to go first, and the little sister is after. And I’ve encouraged them because I want everybody to feel like this is their team. I don’t want it to feel segregated (between) JV and varsity. So I’ve really stressed that with the big sister, little sister thing.”

That means that many of the “big sisters” are juniors like Lillee Lett, Mia Howdeshell, Rylee Clevenger, Darah Strasser and Audrey Bolinger.

“I’ve really put a lot of pressure on my juniors this year,” coach Strasser said. “You’re the leaders. You set the tone for how practice is. They learn from you. You want it to be a positive environment? You need to be positive. It is what you guys make of it. They’re going to come and follow what you do, so we talked a lot about that with the upperclassmen.”

At practice, the emphasis has been on defense and keeping the ball off the floor.

“The first week of practice has been intense,” Strasser said. “Very intense. We’ve been really hitting the fundamentals – passing, defense. I’ve really been preaching to the girls that we’re not a very tall team, so defense is going to be really important. I want us to be relentless: Don’t give up on any ball. So we’ve really been working on those types of situations. … So it’s been a quite intense week of defensive drills.”

Lett leads all returning players in both assists and kills. So how does coach Strasser plan on deploying her?

“I’m not even going to use her as a setter, I don’t think,” coach Strasser said. “I think I’m going to use her more as just an all-around player. I want to use her … as a hitter mainly. Lillee and Audrey are the two that have the most experience on the court. That’s been a lot of talk in conversation with those two. You two have to help out the other juniors and whoever else I step out there on the court with you to fill them in on your secrets and your experience.

“We have a lot of learning to do this year. That’s for sure.”

Howdeshell has been used as a setter in practice. If they put a second setter, it will be a freshman joining her.

“She’s the quarterback of the offense,” coach Strasser said. “She’s a natural-born leader. She understands the game, and if she doesn’t, she’ll do her homework to study it.”

Coach Strasser also has high hopes for Bolinger at middle hitter.

“To dominate and to be consistent in dominating,” coach Strasser said of her expectations of Bolinger. “She’s got two years of experience. She’s an upperclassman now, so she’s stepping into that role of being the dominant player and not just the younger underclassman. She’s got quick hands when it comes to blocking, so that’s exciting. I really want her to slow down things at the net. She knows I expect her to get a touch on as much as possible up there.”

Coach Strasser identified Lett, Darah Strasser and Clevenger as players who will be asked to set the tone on defense because of their quickness.

Their quickness leads back to tempo.

“Absolutely, that’s our goal,” Strasser told RTC Friday. “We practice fast-paced. I try to get through drills quickly. My list of what we’re going to accomplish in our practice is two pages long because I want to do a lot of drills, hit a lot of defense, hit a lot of fundamentals in those drills. The tempo is fast for practice, so then the game’s faster.

“What intensity level I feel like you practice is how you’re going to play.”

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