The thunder echoing from the Centralia High School gymnasium has nothing to do with weather.
It is the sound of the 27 members of the Centralia Lady Panthers High School Volleyball team finishing their Thursday morning practices with some dive and dig drills on the hardwood floor of CHS’ Jim Enlow Court.
Head Coach Sofija Ivanovic said she will be starting the season with 27 players.
“We have a really athletic group of freshmen this season,” she said, taking a break from throwing passes to the athletes participating in the dive and dig drill.
“This year we have some height and you will see more girls jumping at the net:” she said. “We will be a lot more aggressive at the net.”
This season’s team has 11 freshmen, five sophomores, seven juniors and four seniors.
The teams returning seniors are Ashlyn Crum, Aleigha Dollens, Sayler Eastin and Alaina Berendzen.
“We’ve got talented seniors,” Ivanovic said, “but with this freshmen class, don’t be surprised if you see a lot of freshmen playing up. I have four or five freshmen that are really good.”
They, along with the rest of the squad, will have their chance to show how good they are, this season the team is competing again in the Belle and Hallsville Tournaments.
Hallsville is September 21 and Belle is October 10.
They start their season at home, August 31, against Otterville, also senior night for the team, when the title “Queen of the Net,” will be awarded.
Otterville and Eldon are two of the teams added to this year’s schedule, Ivanovic said, since the team would no longer be a member of the NCMC conference.
Besides more aggressive play at the net, she said Panther volleyball fans could see more action at server as well.
“We are working hard at jump serving. If we get good enough, you will see us scoring with it, if not, we will stick with traditional serving.”
The conversation often returns to competition.
The libretto position, for example. Ivanovic said she has some candidates in mind, but she “is letting the girls compete, we’ll see.”
This year she is working with besides her four returning varsity seniors: several other players with solid varsity experience, she said. They are: Annie Robinson, Baylee Beard, Emory Biggs, Neaila Toedebusch and Hannah Danielson.
“I also have two newcomers to watch,” Ivanovic said, “Elly Crum and Claire Bennett.”
She said the team will face tough dual match teams this season, such as Fulton, Eldon, Wright City, Montgomery County, Mexico, Hallsville and Kirksville.
While she has been working the ladies hard on conditioning, at least one hour of each three-hour practice has been devoted to betting in volleyball shape, Invanovic stressed the mental game was of equal importance.
“They have to trust their teammates, communicate with each other and not be too hard on themselves, don’t over think, don’t dwell, just play the game.”
One important rule change coming this season will be a plus for those who really love to watch volleyball.
Starting this season, Ivanovic said, varsity matches will no longer be the best out of three. Instead, she said, they will be the best out of five. “With the teams we fact this season, you’re going to see lots of great volleyball.”