FAIRMONT - Running sprints, lifting weights, agility drills, two-a-day practices, no idle time.
Needless to say, the first two weeks of volleyball practice for the Fairmont Cardinals have drastically changed this fall.
"The first few days, I think we practiced with an actual volleyball for only 30 to 45 minutes (each session)," said first-year Fairmont head coach Haley Loerts, who serves as the fit & well instructor for grades K-6 in the Fairmont Area School District. "We had three different conditioning stations going at the same time and ran the drills for about 10 minutes or less. If you run the drills for a longer period of time, the players tend to get bored and then the drill loses its purpose.
HITTING THE COURT — Members of the Fairmont Cardinals volleyball team opening the season tonight by facing Martin County West in Trimont include, front row (l-r): Tahnisha Jimenez, Haley Harder, Aly Eversman, Morgan Seifried and Michaela Twitchell. Back row: Emily Kim, Sydney Glienke, Courtney Mosloski, Katelynn Noah, Sarah Tschumperlin and Alyssa Westcott. Not pictured: Tieryn Arens. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
"Hopefully, the rotations will be beneficial and keep them interested at the same time because they never know what's coming next."
Loerts, who served as Fairmont's B-squad volleyball coach last fall on the heels of being a part-time varsity assistant in 2012, will put her well-conditioned Cardinals to the test in tonight's season-opener against 2013 Class A state qualifier and No. 11-ranked Martin County West at 7:30 p.m. in Trimont.
Loerts will turn to senior co-captain Emily Kim to literally put Fairmont's 5-1 offensive attack in motion from the setter's position this season.
The sure-handed Kim will look to deliver accurate sets to a pair of varsity veterans in 6-foot junior middle hitter Courtney Mosloski and 5-6 senior co-captain Sydney Glienke along the left-hand outside spiking spot.
Loerts anticipates utilizing the hard-hitting tandem of Mosloski and Glienke, along with 5-10 junior middle hitter Tieryn Arens and 5-5 vertical-jumping junior Haley Harder, in all-around capacities this season.
Meanwhile, Loerts moved 6-0 junior Katelynn Noah from her former middle spiking spot to the right outside position to help solidify the Cardinals' frontline defense.
Senior Aly Eversman, junior Tahnisha Jimenez and senior Morgan Seifried will look to provide sure-handed digging and passing from the back row, junior Alyssa Westcott will serve as the backup setter, while senior Michaela Twitchell and junior Sarah Tschumperlin will use their versatile skills to fill a variety of roles for the red-and-white this fall.
"I think this group of players gives us versatility and depth at all positions, and I have confidence in both our starters and our players coming off the bench," said Loerts. "I thought our captains (Kim and Glienke) did a nice job of taking the initiative during the preseason to get (Anytime Fitness owner) Jack (Von Bank) involved with their workouts, and that's really helped our overall conditioning, too."
Loerts, a four-sport standout at Sibley-Ocheyedan High School in Sibley, Iowa, will turn to assistant coaches Sally Schmitz, Sarah Bonin and Teresa Kiehl in hopes of guiding the Cardinals to their first winning season in nearly a decade.
"We've (coaching staff) had the ninth- through 12th-graders working together during practices, and I think that's helped all of them get to really know each other," said Loerts. "We're hoping that leads to better team chemistry on and off the court."
Fairmont faces defending Class 2A state champion and No. 1-ranked Marshall in its home-opener on Tuesday, Sept. 2, in a Big South Conference clash.