By MICHAEL LETENDRE
PLAINVILLE – When Aug. 24 finally arrives, the fall scholastic teams will be able to finally hit the practice court.
And in terms of the Plainville volleyball team, the girls are certainly ready to go.
Thirty athletes attended the Blue Devils end of the year volleyball team meeting and according to head coach Steve Compson, 10 additional girls showed interest in joining the squad over the summer.
Compson expects some competitive tryouts with 40 girls in the mix but the problem is without a freshman program – thanks to budget crunch a few years ago – there will be cuts made to trim the roster.
“We will give everyone the same equal chance,” said Compson, “and look for those players who have the ingredients we look for and who we can develop over the years.”
The problem is, of course, getting that precious court time as it’s always a challenge at small schools.
Plus the fact that all of the other CCC South schools enjoy multiple courts, gyms and nets at their disposal. It’s not a problem for the Bristol Easterns and Southingtons of the world.
Not so for the Plainville program.
“We have two nets but they are in two gyms, said Compson. “While we love two gyms, most other teams do get the use of two or three in a gym and the higher reps most pay off for their players”
Years ago, while Compson was running the varsity position for the Blue Devils, he coached the freshmen squad as well for three seasons.
While it made for some long days for the freshmen classes, those players benefitted from all that extra time on the court and when those athletes became juniors and seniors, Plainville saw unparalleled levels of success.
So Compson knows the importance in taking care of that incoming freshmen core.
“Some freshmen get fearful when we say tryouts and that first day of high school can make someone nervous enough,” said Compson. “But in the past we have kept most/all freshmen that have come out for the program. Our seniors and juniors are usually pretty good at making the new kids welcome.”
While Bristol’s feeder system enjoys a coaching legend in Gail Ericson, Plainville has been working with a legend of their own in the form of Jim Mills.
Along with Compson, during the winter in the park and recreation league, players honed their skills while Mills was also having Plainville scrimmage against other towns and playing in a summer league in Canton as part of the JV league.
However, as the season fast approaches, Compson certainly encourages the freshman class to get involved with Plainville volleyball program.
He understands those players need time to develop plus a strong work ethic.
But in terms of the preseason, everybody is welcomed to tryout.
“If our best player is a freshman, she will earn a varsity uniform,” said Compson. Upper class-men that have not played but have skill will be welcomed as well. We never turn anyone away before tryouts and we always invite anyone interested to come out. We always stress that everyone needs to work on their skills and continue to grow as players.”
Putting the best team on the floor is the ultimate goal and off last season’s ledger “no one should be thinking they earned their spot last season” noted Compson.
In the Canton Valley Sports summer league, Plainville had a JV and Varsity team on the courts.
The upperclassmen really stepped up to get their teams running while some of those players coached most of the JV games as well.
The JV team just missed out in the end of season tournament.
“They took some bumps and bruises from the other teams, most of whom were older and more experienced but I hope they now have a better idea of what a game will be like,” said Compson. “If all those players come out for our team we can work with them, their skills will improve but being able to play gives them court awareness that talk or just a practice might not give. And in most of the games they played hard and showed some determination.”
The varsity squad all had its moments in summer league as well.
“The varsity league team struggled to find itself at times,” said Compson of the summer play. “At some points, they really clicked and looked sharp but too often they were not the team they wanted to be. Some teams that play in summer league come out to win every point on every play and light up the gym with their enthusiasm alone. For others, it seems to be an hour to play some volleyball and the approach is a bit low key.”
“The Varsity Plainville team seemed to have a little bit more of the latter…we will look to improve that in the first few minutes of our practice.”
With all these trips back and forth, Compson wanted to thank all the parents who carted their athletes back and forth to all the various volleyball locals.
“None of the girls could do that without the support of their parents who gave up some summer time to get the girls out there,” said Compson. “There is a growing spirit for volleyball in Plainville and these girls and parents have worked to make that spirit grow.”
Compson also says some of the team got some training in strange and foreign lands.
Volleyball has certainly grown as an intentional sport and some of Plainville’s finest saw that first hand.
“We also had a number of girls attending camps and clinics over the summer, a couple might have even gotten some international work in as they were overseas most of the summer,” said Compson. “So we hope the skills have improved. There are a number of great college coaches in the area and some players took the opportunity to learn from them.”