Tuesday, November 19, 2002
Steamboat Springs Amanda Anzalone couldn't answer her 13 freshman volleyball girls.
They wanted to know why they kept beating teams so easily. They wanted to know if they could schedule harder competition.
It wasn't exactly a question Anzalone could respond, too, but it isn't an uncommon occurrence within the Steamboat Springs volleyball program.
Like the junior varsity (18-0) and varsity (30-2), the 2002 Sailors freshman squad enjoyed a successful season, going 16-2, falling only to Middle Park and Glenwood Springs.
But Anzalone said the loss to Glenwood was a turning point in the season.
"Most games, as it was with the JV and varsity, we beat teams pretty easily," Anzalone said.
"We were kind of surprised by Glenwood. We hadn't been prepared. From that point on we talked about utilizing practice the best we could and why we did certain drills. At that point, they started to push themselves and each other. It was a big turning point and everything started to fall into place."
The freshmen didn't lose again, defeating Glenwood the second time around in the season finale at home.
Anzalone, a second-year coach, said a girl's freshman year is a tough year, academically, athletically and socially. It is arguably the hardest transition in a girl's life, but Anzalone enjoys being a part of it.
"High school sports is so much more time committing," Anzalone said. "That's the most challenging thing teaching the girls balance while teaching them volleyball skills and having fun because that's the whole point of going out."
It was easy for the freshmen to see, however, that simply going through the motions wasn't accepted at the high school level. Playing before the highly successful and intense JV and varsity teams, the freshmen learned to set the tone.
Anzalone said her team went from having a hard time passing back and forth to whipping teams on the court. In other words, they made the transition between middle school and high school.
"It's so much more of a relaxed program at the middle school because it's an introduction," Anzalone said. "I think by freshman year our expectation at the high school is that they will commit to volleyball. Because the expectations are so high is why the girls have to push themselves and each other to become better rapidly. We don't cut anybody, but after freshman year it's possible."
She said her girls became better students of the game and picked up a greater understanding of strategy this season.
"I'm so amazed looking at these girls how far they've come," Anzalone said.