High expectations, less pressure for Mustangs volleyball
West Grand enters season with big smile as team downs Summit
The smiles on West Grand’s faces were unmistakable as the volleyball team cruised to victory Friday vs. Summit in the Mustangs’ season-opener.
On Friday, West Grand played its first game of the new fall campaign, defeating neighboring Summit 25-17, 25-23, 25-23 in front of a rowdy home crowd, only months after ending last year’s season.
Last year, the Colorado High School Activities Association adjusted the sports schedules due to COVID-19 and pushed volleyball back into the spring, making this perhaps the shortest off-season in program history.
“All of us are so grateful to be back in the gym in a normal setting after the crazy COVID season last year,” said Brook Menhennett, who took over as head coach this season. “The fan base on Friday was absolutely amazing, and we hope that continues to be a highlight of community members’ week.”
According to Menhennett, the upperclassmen have earned the right to have fun this year after having so much pressure put on them, in part because the bunch showed so much natural talent at such an early age.
“They are excited and ready to be pushed without so much pressure on their shoulders,” Menhennett said of the mindset she’s working to install this year.
The Mustangs core seniors — Alex Schake, Maddy Probst and Audree Miller — are already thriving with subtle changes in their defense and a revamped approach on offense, Menhennett explained.
The coach added that she has noticed that little tweaks can make a huge difference, and most important, she’s emphasizing that the team needs to maintain the highest expectations of themselves without feeling all that pressure.
“It’s high school volleyball and they should be having fun,” Menhennett said. “I’m reiterating over and over, that in a gym setting, that they should be OK with disappointment and use that as a tool to set as a baseline to grow, not dwell on mistakes.”
Additionally, the Mustangs are celebrating the return of senior Ally Daly, who is back in the lineup after having a medical emergency during last year’s game vs. Middle Park. Daly had to have surgery after that game, and while it’s been a scary recovery, Menhennet said that Daly is ready for the season, looking and feeling good.
“She is a prevalent leader and has worked with her doctors, family and us coaches to get back playing a sport that she loves so much,” Menhennet said.
And there are other benefits, too.
With Daly back in the lineup, the Mustangs can utilize junior Sage Lechman more on offense.
Lechman logged huge playing time when West Grand made the state tournament her freshman year. Having the junior freed up to push the attack “is huge” for the Mustangs, Menhennet said.
Another junior, Morgan Nelson, has grown into a great all-around player for the team, and she started Friday’s season-opener. Mustangs junior Lily Butler also has been doing a great job coming off the bench, being thrown into the game at any minute and doing what the team asks of her, according to the coach.
“The junior class is really showing up to help the seniors reach their goal of making it to state this year,” Menhennett added.
West Grand is heavy with upperclassmen this season, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any opportunities for the younger players.
Freshmen Taylor Martinson and Sara Lechman suited out for varsity on Friday after showing focus and strong attitudes in practice, and Menhennett said the Mustangs may suit a few more deserving underclassmen in the weeks to come.
West Grand will host the Mustangs’ volleyball tournament on Sept. 3-4 in Kremmling.
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