Not making the playoffs last year left a sour taste in Chris Elliott’s mouth.
The fourth-year head coach knows the Cougar volleyball program is better than what it showed last season. As this year approaches, the message is to get back to the top.
“Every year you have a new team, no matter who comes back,” Elliott said. “The expectations are always the same, with anyone on your roster. We’re used to doing regional tournaments. We want to come back this year and make some noise like we’re supposed to.
During Elliott’s first two seasons as volleyball head coach, Coosa made regionals. Last year, the run levels just weren’t there and the Cougars stumbled.
Starting in June, Coosa embarked on summer training to improve areas where his team was struggling.
Elliott believes his team’s work over the summer has made his team look like he’s used to seeing.
“The girls worked extremely hard,” Elliott said. “Summer has brought us back to where we are meant to be. We are making big improvements every day.
One of the areas the Cougars struggled in last year was setting. Four seniors have graduated from the Coosa squad, leaving holes in the crucial setter position, but Elliott believes his players have adapted well to the new shoes they have had to fill.
“Setting is a critical position that we need to have,” Elliott said. “If we can’t fix, we can’t win. we have two daughters [that can set]. One was a second string setter who will be our main setter this year. One that we will draw to fill it.
Pulling the girls up will soon be a thing of the past for Coosa, as the school fielded enough players to form a high school team this year. Now, the school will have a pipeline from college to junior college, to university, where girls can start with the basics and progress.
Coosa is also fortunate to have two separate gymnasiums, and is then able to host more games and provide more experience for the girls. More teams and more games will only be an advantage for Coosa in the long run.
“It’s going to be important for the new girls coming in,” Elliott said. “We can play players at their own level, instead of a seventh-grader having to play against a tenth-grader all through college. This will help the program tremendously. »
Elliott wants his junior high curriculum to start with the basics, learning foundational skills. As Coosa players learn and grow through this new pipeline, Elliott can develop college players for the future.
“We want skill development,” Elliott said. “Once you come to JV, we can get more involved and involved. This is when we really learn to play the game correctly. And then move on to college whenever you’re ready.
As the new Coosa High school team works toward the future, Elliott must worry about the present. He has a team that needs to get in shape to win.
Another area that hurt the Coosa team last year was service and reception. Opposing teams were able to make multi-point runs against the Cougars, as they struggled to get the ball over the net on serves and rallies.
This offseason, Elliott has seen his team’s ability to serve the ball grow.
“Service has been a big priority this year,” Elliott said. “We started new exercises and it helped us a lot. Of course, there is still work to be done. »
Skill-wise, Elliott said his hitters are his best group. Their progress over the summer is impressive in the eyes of their coach.
As for how his team will meet the mental challenge of returning to the playoffs, that’s the least of Elliott’s worries. The team has the mental side of things down.
“When you get punched in the mouth, you have to fight back,” Elliott said. “This group is a group that is capable of doing that. We handle adversity very well.
The Cougars’ first step toward their season, and eventual playoff run, is in an upcoming play date. If the concepts Elliott and his team refined over the summer come to fruition, even before the real season starts, he thinks his team has a good chance of making the noise his program is used to.
“I want us to run the area tournament,” Elliott said. “I want us to move on to regional play. This is the goal every year. »