Volleyball notes: Circle steps up its defense
Circle volleyball coach Shelly Nibarger has preached defense to the Thunderbirds through every workout.
With libero Alyssa Kirkham leading the way, it has paid off for Circle, which is unbeaten in Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division IV.
“We lost five hitters from last year, so we talked defense early,” said Nibarger, who is in her 25th season. “I felt our offense would come along. We are quick, and we are very athletic on the back row. Alyssa is just solid. She does a lot of for us.
“… She’s a very good anticipator, and she just has that instinct for hitters’ tendencies. She picks up on it quickly.”
Whenever Kirkham is briefly on the bench, she’s talking to Nibarger about what adjustments should be made.
“I tell her, ‘You keep doing what you’re doing,’” Nibarger said.
Even with a defense that has been scrappy, there was concern with how the offense would take shape with only senior middle Erin Schiesser returning.
A major change has been junior setter Katie Frankenbery, who ran a one-setter offense in 2012. Circle now uses a two-setter attack to utilize Frankenbery’s hitting.
She’s 5-foot-6, but she leads Circle with 149 kills. She also leads the team in serving percentage and has 22 aces.
The middle is strong with Schiesser and Leah Netzger, while Kaylie Kifer (5-foot-4) is Circle’s other outside.
Nibarger is also coaching her oldest daughter, Andie, a sophomore who plays right side. Her youngest, Andie, is in seventh grade.
She said she hopes to coach until Andie graduates, which would end Nibarger’s career at an even 30 years.
“That would be neat,” Nibarger said.
Hillsboro going for three — Before the Kansas State High School Activities Association released classifications on Friday, Hillsboro coach Sandy Arnold discussed her team’s goal of a third straight Class 3A title.
“It would be silly for us not to have that goal,” she said. “I’ve been blessed with a lot of talent. I can’t take credit for it. The girls are very talented, and they have really bought into what we’re trying to do. We lost some great players last year.… Every year you think, ‘How will we replace that?’ And every year someone seems to step up into that role.”
Hillsboro (16-0) won’t have a chance to play for a 3A title because the Trojans dropped into Class 2A.
But Arnold wrote in an e-mail that it doesn’t change the goal of winning a third straight title — “It doesn't really matter what class we are in, we will still have to play ball and work hard to get to our ultimate goal.”
Hillsboro has a core of four experienced players in senior outside Addie Lackey, senior libero Danae Bina, sophomore outside Alex Ratzlaff and sophomore middle Shannon Heiser.
Bina has played varsity four years, including three trips to the postseason, and Lackey has played for the past two title teams.
Bina is a steady libero, who consistently sends a strong pass to senior setter Maddi Duerksen to start the offense. Bina often stays after practice, arguing with Arnold when it’s time to finally get out of the gym for the night.
“She’s the last of nine kids, and she grew up playing with her brothers and sisters,” Arnold said. “She’s as tough as they come.”
Ratzlaff and Lackey are the outsides, and while Lackey is a basketball player first, Ratzlaff, whose mom, Amy, is the Tabor coach, grew up around the game.
“They do expect to win, and the community expects it,” Arnold said. “… Sometimes it is overwhelming. Can we really do it three times? But at the same time, that’s our goal.”