Now in her third year as the head coach of the Riverside volleyball team, Liz Kerr has set two goals for her squad this season: Win the Northwest Central Conference crown and throw in a sectional title to go with it.
The Pirates are going to have their work cut out for them if they are to meet these lofty goals. They lost two all-conference players and three others to graduation.
“Last year, I had almost all returning players,” Kerr said. “This year I only have four, so we are more on the young side.”
Kerr led the Pirates to a 16-9 overall record and a 6-1 league mark in 2014, Riverside dropping its only league match to Sidney Lehman, which finished the NWCC season with a perfect 7-0 record. In Kerr’s debut season in 2013, Riverside finished with a 6-16 record, with three of those wins coming against conference teams.
Given the steps her program has taken in the past two years, Kerr is confident that the goals she set are realistic, although with the loss of so many players, adjustments had to be made this fall.
Returning to the Pirate squad this season is senior Taylor Stevens, who was a first-team all-conference pick as a libero in 2014. Marissa Davis, who made the second-team all-conference squad as a freshman hitter last year also returns, as do older sister senior Lauryn Davis and senior Aubrey Stephens, both of whom are working on their third varsity letter in volleyball.
After that, the varsity experience drops off. Helena Faulder, a junior, is coming around as a setter and a vocal leader of the team, while hard-hitting sophomore Marissa Davis, a wonderful talent who is becoming more lethal with every match, is the one Kerr looks to “make that one play that may pick up the spirit of the team.” Kerr also expects sophomores Kristin Davison and Alexis Snow to be making significant contributions, as will freshman Shelby Giles.
“They know when it’s time to work and time to have fun,” Kerr said her squad. “The strength of my team would be how well they work together. Our weakness is knowing what communication is needed on the court to be successful. This will come as we get more playing time.”
As usual, Riverside will be playing a tough schedule. West Liberty-Salem, Indian Lake, Benjamin Logan, Fairlawn, Botkins and Bellefontaine make up just part of the Pirates’ non-league schedule. Throw in conference games against Sidney Lehman and improved Hardin Northern and Upper Scioto Valley squads and Riverside is going to have to grow up fast it is to meet their stated goals.
The Pirates open NWCC play at Upper Scioto Valley on Thursday, Sept. 3.
Tom Stephens is a regular contributor to this newspaper.