CONWAY — Playoffs and a good seed for the post-season are among the goals for the 2013 Kennett High volleyball team.
The Eagles, who lost three seniors from last year's 0-17 squad, opened their season Friday at home against St. Thomas, the school that went undefeated last year and clinched the No. 1 seed for the 2012 playoffs. The Saints took the points on the night winning 3-0 (25-5, 25-10, 25-9), but the Eagles were involved in a number of long rallies and gave fans a glimpse of good things to come.
Kennett will have two had coaches this season in Danielle Shuler, who is returning for a second year, and newcomer Maxine Cadman, who was hired Monday night by the Conway School Board.
"Danielle and I are going to be tag-team coaching," Cadman, who is also the varsity girls tennis coach at KHS, said.
Shuler explained a change in her work schedule prohibits her from being at every practice and match so she's grateful Cadman was able to joint the program.
"I can make it to all of the home game and a couple of the away ones," she said. "I think tag-teaming it will work the best for everyone."
Shuler has been pleased with the play of the Eagles, who opened their preseason on Aug. 19.
"I thought it went well," she said.
During the preseason KHS participated in a volleyball jamboree and turned some heads.
"We beat two of the three teams we played," Shuler sid. "We beat Hillsborough and ConVal. We lost by three points to Mascenic High School. ...We were missing three starting varsity players, too. But Rachelle Cormier was amazing at middle hitting and blocking. Aiden Merrill has six continuous aces in one game. Ashley Lamar had five aces in a row. Cobie Chin and Jordan Dicey were fantastic at setting and as hitters.
"The ConVal JV coach came up to me and said he thought the varsity team looked great and he believes will be very competitive this year," she continued. "He remembered when I coached these girls on JV against him and he said that he has seen a huge improvement in their skill level within the last two years."
The Eagles secured the No. 16 playoff spot year for the playoffs when they won the flip of a coin to edge out Manchester West, who was also winless on the season. The schools were both 0-16 and tied for the final spot. The Sports Committee at the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association had eight sets of criteria to break ties but none were applicable in this situation, so it flipped a coin and it landed in Kennett's favor.
Coach Shuler was pleased with the play of her Eagles in the post-season, who were one of the youngest teams in Division II, as they at least got to taste the playoffs last fall and grateful to the parents and spectators who made the trek to Dover to support the squad.
The Eagles will lost only three seniors — Jacinda Hoyt, Charlotte Kennett and Emma Smith — to graduation last spring return a solid nucleus to make a run at a fifth straight post-season appearance.
"The number one goal is to enter the playoffs at least as a mid range team instead of getting in by a technicality like last year," Shuler said. "We want to earn our way into the playoffs and play a really competitive playoff game."
Shuler has been impressed with how the girls "have been developing their fundamentals" early this season and sees a quiet confidence among her troops. She and Coach Cadman are carrying 11 girls on the varsity squad while Diana Germaine is coaching the junior varsity team, which has 20 girls, this fall.
Varsity players, according to Coach Shuler are: setters: Cobie Chin, a junior; setter/hitter: Jordan Dicey, a senior; middle: Rachelle Cormier, a junior; libbero: Sydney Smith, a junior; back row: Aiden Merrill, a senior, Alexis Chick, a senior, and Danielle Vizard, a junior; back row/front row: Ashley Lamar, a senior; weak and outside hitters: Cadie Camille, a senior who has also developed quite the jump serve; and Kayla Kennett, a senior.
"We have two JV players we are keeping an eye on and incorporating them into the varsity practice, because with a little more experience they will be great at one of the front row positions," Shuler said. "...Our front row hitters are phenomenal. I've really excited about them."
Team captains are Camille, Dicey and Kennett.
"All three of them have been great," Shuler said. "It's nice to have veterans you can count on."
The Eagles, who were on the road Wednesday night at perennial power Gilford (0-1), return to The Nest this Friday (6 p.m.) to take on Somersworth (1-0). The Toppers opened their season with a hard-fought 3-2 victory at home over Gilford.
Last year the Eagles raised $305 for Jen's Friends through bake sale efforts and selling cotton candy during their Homecoming match.
"We're definitely going to do it again," Shuler said. "Starting (this Friday night) we plan to do a concession stand at all of our home Friday matches. We'll also do the breast cancer game where we'll sell cotton candy. Our goal is to raise over $400 this year."