HJ - CHS VB Scrimmage 2019

A pair of Clarinda defenders team up for a block during the volleyall scrimmage held Friday, Aug. 23, at Clarinda High School. The Cardinals open the season at home Thursday, Sept. 5, against Creston. (Herald-Journal photo by John Van Nostrand)

Clarinda is taking a simple approach to the 2019 volleyball season that could make the Cardinals a formidable team night in and night out.

Clarinda co-coaches Kaitlin Allen and Macy Elwood said they have stressed to the players the importance of being part of the whole, displaying mental toughness and communicating on and off the court.

“We hope the girls develop the ability to be a full person. We are working hard to be mentally tough as volleyball players. Being able to focus on what you can control and letting the rest go require having a positive attitude on the court,” Elwood said.

“I think every team has the same goal of making it to the state tournament each year. We would be lying if we said we weren’t working toward that. However, our biggest goal this year is playing our best game each time we’re out on the floor,” Allen said.

Last season, Clarinda posted an overall record of 9-22 and was 3-7 in conference play. By developing that consistency, Allen and Elwood are hopeful the Cardinals will be able to surpass those marks this season.

Clarinda has 34 players out for the volleyball program this year. After holding high school and middle school camps the week of Aug. 5, the Cardinals started official practices Aug. 12.

Helping lead the way for the Cardinals are a group of four seniors. Those players are Hallee Fine, Cloe Holmstrom, Morgan Lihs and Bradlie Wilmes.

“Although there are not many seniors, they are already showing their leadership,” Elwood said.

Also returning for Clarinda are juniors Saige Brown, Faith Espinosa and Teya Stickler. Brown averaged 1.56 digs per set last season, while Stickler is making the transition from libero to setter this season.

Clarinda also has a strong group of newcomers who will be expected to contribute on the court this season. Elwood said sophomore Riley Morgenstern has performed well in the back row and has the skills to play all over the court. Sophomore Paige Millikan is working to develop her skills in the front row.

Junior Jessalee Neihart should also be a valuable addition for the Cardinals this season. She played at the varsity level for South Page as a freshman and sophomore. She averaged 2.78 digs per set; 1.03 kills per set; and was an 86.5 percent server with 18 aces.

“I have been impressed with the way she has worked into the program. She is going to be a good asset for the team,” Allen said. “We have four South Page players all together. The rest are freshmen or sophomores, and we’re glad to have them.”

“Over the summer, with our weight program and open gyms, at least three of the four were in attendance so some good relationships have already been built,” Elwood said.

Clarinda will open the regular season Thursday, Sept. 5, when the Cardinals host Creston. Allen and Elwood agreed the Panthers would be a good test for the Cardinals and provide the team with an early taste of playing in the Hawkeye 10 Conference.

“The biggest thing for us is going to be playing a mentally strong game. We need to see the court well and anticipate because we’re not a super tall team. We also need to be able to communicate,” Elwood said.

Allen and Elwood said Council Bluffs St. Albert, Lewis Central and Red Oak should all be vying for the conference championship this season. The Saintes were 10-0 in conference play last year and return their top hitter. The Titans and Tigers each posted records of 7-3.

“We need to go out and play our best game every night because after that the conference is pretty wide open,” Elwood said.

“We need to be able to put up a big block and play good defense against the strong Hawkeye 10 hitters. We also need to serve aggressively to keep our opponents out of system. We have been working on our serving to make sure we’re hitting the right spots on the court,” Allen said.

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