By MICHAEL LETENDRE
PLAINVILLE – When you taste success as a team, you want to sustain that feeling for as long as you can.
That’s exactly the experience the 2011 Plainville volleyball squad felt last season.
Off the power of a very solid 9-9 campaign, the Blue Devils finished with its best record since 2002 when the team went 15-5 and was one game out of the Northwest Conference title picture.
But from 2003-2010, Plainville did not have one winning season during those years but in 2011, those fortunes changed.
Now in 2012, head coach Steve Compson is looking for another winning season but will have to accomplish that task with a number of spots in the rotation up for grabs.
It all makes for a very busy preseason for Plainville.
“The tryouts this year might just be the most competitive we have seen,” said Compson. “With so few returning players with varsity experience, there are a lot of “spots open” on the court.
Members of the senior class will feel some pressure from the younger kids, which is a very good thing.
There’s a young core eager to leave its mark on the program and all the added competition will simply just push everyone on the squad.
A number of seniors graduated from Compson’s program and this year’s tryout process – that just took place this past week – could reveal a couple diamonds in the rough.
“We did not have cuts last season but we will most likely have some this year,” said Compson. “Girls will get a good three days to show us what they can do but space is limited (and) we can only play and develop so many players. We also expect to have a good number of freshmen coming out for the program.”
In the past, Plainville has kept all the freshmen that tried out for the team and Compson hoped to see a good number of girls from the rec league run by Jim Mills this year as well.
Some of those players have worked for two years and are already more skilled than many past girls entering their freshmen year at Plainville.
“These girls actually played in a few games and know some of the basics,” said Compson. “A couple could leapfrog some of the players in the program last year.”
The growth of the Plainville volleyball is on full display when cuts are necessary.
Other squads in the CCC South have to cut players every year and the Blue Devils now will have to make some as well.
It’s a pleasant surprise for the Class M program.
“It is tough to cut players. It has always been a sad day for players and the coaches too,” said Compson. “But trying to build the program with only two courts and with no freshmen team, we have to do some pruning to allow for new growth. We have always said that the best will play, that spots need to be earned.”
Plainville’s freshmen team was cut from the budget a couple years ago and that meant fewer opportunities and spots for the girls.
Compson used to run a freshmen team over his first few years as coach and out of the seniors that just graduated, 16 had come out as freshmen while two played some JV and varsity.
As seniors, seven were still on the team and two were managers for the squad.
This Plainville program wants to continue to compete with the likes of Bristol Central and Eastern this year and the Blue Devils are confident they can do so.
But wearing that special Plainville uniform is a right, not a privilege.
And this year especially, those talented ones who prove more than a little something in week one of the preseason will get closer to wearing that Blue Devils’ uniform.
“You don’t get that varsity uniform for staying around for a long time,” said Compson. “When you have the passion, heart, desire and skill, you get one. Miss those things and you might not earn one. We have been fortunate in the past by having some great kids who were not the best volleyball players but still wanted to do something for the team. They stayed on as managers.
“Their manager’s skills have really helped the team.”
Compson will be looking for players to fill in at least two varsity spots.
And the added competition by a big preseason group will determine who gets a chance at those spots.
“We have a number of other players who will need to prove themselves during the first few days of tryouts,” said Compson. “No player should take anything for granted. No one moves up, they need to step up.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE