Plum volleyball focused on strong finish

Friday, October 4, 2019 | 6:54 PM

With the season winding down and the playoffs likely not in sight for the 2-9 Plum girls volleyball team, coach Kelsey Bonk is still focused on winning.

“(The team) just wants to finish strong,” she said. “I don’t think it matters what time of year it is. Wanting to win games always stays the same.

“Wanting to compete at a high level in AAAA will always be the main goal.”

After the loss of the Lady Mustangs’ lone senior, right side hitter Lauren Pernice, to a fractured ankle suffered in practice two weeks ago, the Lady Mustangs are left with only eight upperclassmen, all juniors.

One junior leading the way is Division I prospect Makayla Jackson. She officially visited Miami (Fla.) last month and plans for another visit to Pitt after the high school season wraps up, according to Bonk.

Jackson may be listed as a middle blocker on the roster, but the 6-foot standout plays six rotations, including the back row, for Plum.

“Makayla has made huge strides from last year, taking on a bigger role this year with a huge amount of touches in each game,” Bonk said.

Bonk likes the way her younger players have responded to a season full of tough losses, with four of them coming down to the final set.

“They are still fighting, which is good,” Bonk said. “They have taken a lot of brutal hits from the beginning.

“If you turn (our four five-set losses) into wins, we have a winning record right now. That can get hard to keep swallowing that bitter pill of losing close matches, but I think we have done a good job of continuing to fight, showing up and battling in these games.”

Sophomore Grace Thompson is a prime example of that. Thompson, who is naturally a defensive specialist, has been forced into the setter role after the Lady Mustangs lost both varsity setters in the offseason.

“(Thompson) has done a good job of working her butt off to make it work in a position she is not comfortable with,” Bonk said. “It’s nice she is already good at defense, but she had to work hard to get used to playing setter.”

Bonk admits it is challenging to put a lineup together for some games, but knows it will only benefit the underclassmen for next season.

The roster consists of seven sophomores and five freshmen.

“Every girl that is getting playing time will be back next year, so this is really valuable varsity experience,” the fourth-year coach said. “They are seeing how fast the game really is. It’s not going to be a shock for a lot of these girls (heading into next season).”

One of the team’s goals for the offseason is to increase their volleyball IQ and mental capacity for the game, Bonk said.

Bonk said the past two seasons have put her coaching abilities to work.

“We have had pretty young teams. In AAAA, you learn how difficult is is to win, especially in a tough section,” she said. “For me as a coach, you get better at coaching when your teams are struggling because you are constantly adjust the lineups and find out what works. These past two years have made me try that much harder (to win) by coming up with new drills for practice and focusing on the fundamentals.”


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