Her first season as the head volleyball coach at Smith-Cotton is still a couple of months away, but Darcia Koetting is keeping busy.
The Lady Tigers are spending two days a week this summer on training and conditioning after spending three days a week in the spring. The players are also coming in for open gym.
“We have a pretty dedicated group of high school girls that come out and work hard,” Koetting said. “It’s going to show in the season how hard they’ve worked.”
And after the high school players finish their camp, Koetting welcomes junior high players in to develop their basic passing, setting and hitting skills.
“When they come to high school at this level we expect them to already have the basics down, serving form and passing and setting,” she said. “If they can get the basics down in camps like this and through club volleyball and their offseason work, that’s going to make our high school program better.”
Helping teach the junior high players are members of Koetting’s varsity team.
“It’s different but it’s been fun,” said Abby Knight, a first-team all-state middle hitter as a sophomore last season. “It’s nice to see the kids look up to you and teach them new things every day and work things out with them so they can get better and play at a high level in high school when they get here.”
In addition to teaching at one camp and honing their skills at another, the high school players have jumped into the summer schedule, taking second at a tournament at Helias over the weekend.
“That was really good for us and I thought we played really well as a team, especially for our first tournament together,” Knight said. “We worked together and moved together even though we’d only had a few open gyms before that.”
Coming together as a unit will be key this fall if the Lady Tigers hope to pick up where they left off. Smith-Cotton finished 2012 with a 19-8-2 record, falling in a close three-set loss to Troy-Buchanan in the first round of the Class 4, District 9 tournament.
“I feel like if we’re going to have a season like we did last year, we all need to be here and work together,” said senior Kaylie Creach.
At the high school level, Koetting has more than 30 players in camp, the most the Lady Tigers have had in the three years she has been with the program. With those numbers, Koetting can do more in camp.
“We can start specializing which means that we can use girls specifically for defense and specifically for offense,” she said. “That really increases your ability to have a better team and it involves more girls in the program as well.”
Though she is in her first year as head coach, Koetting knows her players well, including the group that will be sophomores in the fall, a group she coached when they were in fourth grade.
“A lot of girls from our youth program and our junior high program and our club program are starting to come to the high school now,” Koetting said. “So that’s exciting to see some of the girls we’ve worked with and our other club coaches have worked with are starting to show an interest in volleyball to stick with it. That’s great for Smith-Cotton volleyball.”
Koetting takes over for Kristin Miller, who last season led the Lady Tigers to their second winning season in 20 years.
“She’s keeping things pretty similar to how coach Miller did them but she’s making some of her own changes,” Knight said.
Koetting said the high school players have adjusted well to her coaching style and are helping work with athletes who will be part of the Smith-Cotton varsity teams for the next several years.
“We teach them the techniques of volleyball so when they get to high school we can keep the records going,” Creach said.