Forest Grove netters young, but up to the challenge
Last year's Forest Grove High School volleyball team finished 5-16, with just a single win in the Pacific Conference. But despite losing nine seniors to graduation, including all-league honorees Olivia Grosse and Katie Ellington, head coach Amber Lieb is excited about what is and what could be going forward with the 2021 Viking netters.
Lieb said her assistant coach, Melissa Dineen, started a volleyball club in Forest Grove some six years ago. Girls from the onset of that youth program are now starting to filter into the high school.
"I have a freshman and sophomore class that is just chock-full of talented athletes," Lieb said. "Melissa has done a great job and we're really starting to see the hard work payoff. A lot of these kids have been playing club together since fifth and sixth grade, and now they're getting into the high school program, and we're excited to see them."
Amongst the crop of young talent are two sophomores, middle blocker Hannah Carlson and outside hitter Chloe Hefner. Lieb said both are anchors for this year's team, and coupled with some of the more experienced players, like junior libero Diana Real, the Vikings have been showing their potential in the early parts of this year's shortened season.
Forest Grove lost a competitive game with Liberty to start the year but bounced back with a big win over league foe Sherwood.
Absent from this year's team is league honorable-mention middle blocker Amanda Rebsom, who, despite a remaining year of eligibility, chose to sit out the year in order to rest an ailing shoulder for the upcoming basketball season.
With such a young team, it was the type of leadership Rebsom may have provided that led to what was an uncharacteristically lackluster performance from the Viks in a 3-0 loss to Glencoe on Tuesday, March 9.
Lieb said that while disappointing, that type of performance can be attributed at least in part to her squad's youth and relative inexperience.
"I didn't recognize that team," Lieb said with a chuckle. "But overall, I'm happy with where we're at. The team is young, but they're invested and that's exciting."
As an example of that investment, the coach said her team has been communicating about and scouting their opponents on their own. She said that they were watching videos of their upcoming opposition and looking for teams' strengths and weaknesses — something she's never seen at Forest Grove before.
"This team is invested in winning," Lieb said. "They've taken that initiative. Not just one or two, but all of them, and they want to win."
The coach said that while unusual, coaching and preparing during the pandemic hasn't been all that different. But what is different is the season itself, which will offer no league championship or postseason. In light of that, Lieb said it's become her and her coaching staff's focus to not only prepare her team for the future, but also to be sure the trials and tribulations of the past year don't take their toll on the kids.
"We want to give them a lot of positive feedback," the coach said. "We're concerned as much about the mental aspect as we are about the physical, so we're really trying to be there to support them on and off the court.
"It's only four or five weeks of volleyball, but they have jobs, AP classes, home lives, so we want them to make sure they have their priorities in the right spot, and know we love them and that they're not alone."
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