Chelsea hopes to stand on top of difficult region

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

Last year, Chelsea’s volleyball team finished with 30-plus wins and while there were plenty of positives to build off moving forward, it was a season that ended short of the postseason after finishing third in a three-team area.

It may have been the toughest region in the state with Helena and Pelham being the opponents, one of which made it to the Elite Eight, while the Panthers won the state championship.

Still, Chelsea was coming off an area championship the year prior and now has the confidence of a 30-plus win season and a large cast of players returning in 2018, which has created a lot of excitement about what this team can accomplish.

“We have six returners and all of them got quality time last year,” head coach Jessica Pickett said. “I expect bigger things because these girls are a lot more experienced. Last year was a rebuilding year, but we still won 30-plus games.”

Most importantly for the returnees is that they weren’t satisfied at all with how the season played out despite all of those wins according to their head coach.

“Pelham won last year and Helena was at the state tournament,” Pickett said. “Every day we have to get better and every night you have to be ready because all of our teams in the area are difficult. We focus on first ball and last ball in practice because that’s what we’ll need to do in games.”

One of those experienced players is Jules Hamer, who is heading into her fourth year of starting having done so since her freshman year with the Hornets. Hamer said it will be tough to outlast them in matches this year.

“We’re always doing suicides to work harder than other teams,” she said. “We want to make sure other teams are more tired than us if it goes to a fifth set. We want to be fresh mentally and physically.”

Hamer is one of two seniors on the team, but despite the lack of seniority on the team, it doesn’t seem to be cause for concern due to experience.

“I think this team is going to be really good because we have had so many young players coming up,” said the other senior, Sara Swee. “They all have raw talent and have had the chance to get so much better with varsity experience.”

The disappointment of not making the postseason is also driving those two seniors to try and lead this team to the next level for their final ride.

“We have a lot of heart and want it really bad,” Swee said. “We hope to have that extra something that will push us back into the postseason. If we are ever down, we just need to think toward that long-term goal and remember what last year felt like.”