Lady Longhorn volleyball coach Arnold Stonebrink is spewing superlatives over the upcoming season’s players and the efforts they turned in during a busy summer filled with tournaments, camps, open gyms and training sessions under the direction of former professional collegiate stars.
It’s obvious Stonebrink is justifiably proud of the players and is predicting big things for them next season.
With summer training sessions at an end and Stonebrink brimming over with optimism, we’ll let the coach assess, in his own words, what he’s observed over the past two months.
“Our six main servers in the (Payson) tournament — Kaitlyn Wessel, Megan Wessel, Shayna Neal, Mckenzie Creighton, Emma Randall and Sydney Samuels — make a very imposing group of servers.
“Teams get no break at all with any of these servers. Kaitlyn and Megan provided solid and fundamentally strong passing all day long. Emma (.327), Shayna (.262) and Sydney (.179) were the top hitters. Mckenzie hit .250 from the setter’s position with well-placed and timed tips.
“Junior Mckenzie Creighton is taking over from her sister Rachel as setter. I think Mckenzie will be an even better setter than her sister, even though Rachel is playing college ball at Colorado Northwestern. She does all the things that Rachel did well, plus she is very vocal and a bit outspoken, unlike her much more quiet sister. She already pushes deep corner shots like a pro, and she puts the hitters right on the net consistently.
“Perhaps the most improved player is Emma. Last year, she’d have times she’d get frustrated if she got blocked or dug a few times; now she figures it out with more angled hits, off shots, pushes, tips, etc. She has become a very smart player. Her serving is tougher, and she has really improved greatly as a passer, so much that she is one of our strongest passers.
“Our strongest lineup was when we did a three-player trade of responsibilities. We put Shayna in Kaitlyn’s right-side hitter spot, moved Kaitlyn to her sister Megan’s libero spot, and moved Megan over to outside hitter, where Shayna had logged a lot of time. And it worked extremely well.
“Besides being great players, the twins also have great personalities. They are very focused and low-key, and never have any drama associated with them. I think the team will take their cue on that. They are also very willing to do and change to any position that they are asked to. Of course, that’s also a testament of their versatility.
“Shayna has the potential of being my best right-side hitter ever. It’s a hard position to hit from, but she gets up high and is aggressive.
“Sydney is just a sophomore, but has evolved into a strong middle/outside hitter. She has a very good chance of making varsity as middle hitter. She plays physically and mentally like a veteran.
“Taylor Randall was our other middle, and she showed great streaks of power hitting and dominant blocking. She is a junior.
“Morgan Chilson took a leave from volleyball last year, but is coming back as a senior mainly as a back row player. She did a great job in the tournament.”