WOODSTOCK — Central lost a lot of players from last year’s Class 2 finalist team, but the Falcons still have high expectations for this year’s team.
The Falcons are bringing back five players from last year’s team and hope to build on that success to do more this year.
“I’m excited for this group,” said central coach Ashlie Clar. “They know what we need to do to get to where we want to be. And they’ve been working hard every day. We’ve been going to the weight room more this season so far and doing more conditioning. They want really being here every day. You can tell they are happy to play volleyball. So it’s nice to have a group like that.
Juniors Peyton DiNardo and Bailey Sheetz are back from last year’s starting lineup and will be looking to lead the way and even show some leadership.
“They play club (volleyball) in the offseason and they come and open gyms,” Clar said of DiNardo and Sheetz. “They’re working hard in training. They’re also taking on more of a leadership role this year. It’s their third year at university, so they’re stepping into that leadership role and it’s nice to see them excelling as as athletes. and as people too.”
DiNardo finished last season with 318 kills, 49 aces and 248 digs. Sheetz had 139 kills, 24 blocks, 401 assists, 60 aces and 234 digs.
Seniors Chloe Helsley, Ava Hosaflook and Nevaeh Strother are also back for the Falcons.
The Falcons have a strong core of newcomers, who grew from a successful junior varsity team last season.
Helsey said she thinks this year’s team can have another strong season.
“I think we’ve got a really talented squad this year,” Helsley said. “There’s a lot of potential, especially with the younger girls who are improving this year. I think if we put all our talent together, we’re going to have a good season.”
With a young team, Strother said she thinks communication will be key this season.
“It’s really about talking, using our voices,” Strother said. “Some of the younger girls we have in the squad haven’t really played in college, so it’s a different level. So hopefully being loud, being big on the ground will help.”
Hosaflook will be the libero this season and she said she was looking forward to playing that position.
“It’s a pretty big role,” Hosaflook said of the Libero role. “It’s very nerve-wracking at times knowing that I’m going to be in the game a lot. It’s a big thing for me. I think it will be fine, though.”
Clar said she felt the team didn’t have as much pressure this year as it did last season.
“Last year I felt like the girls were under a lot of pressure,” Clar said. “They had like a target on their back, and this year they’re more relaxed. But at the same time, they have confidence in themselves and they know the abilities they have. And they know what it takes or what it’s going to take to get to where we want to be again at the end of the year – to keep playing until November.”
Clar said she just wants her team to improve this season.
“On our warm-up shirts this year (it says) ‘doesn’t matter, get better,'” Clar said. “It doesn’t matter what other people say, it doesn’t matter what kind of day you’ve had. When you come to the gym, you’re here to improve. That’s really our focus right now.”
Central opens its season at Sherando on August 23.
Helsley said that even though the team lost a lot of players last year, they still believe this year’s team can have the same success as last year.
“I think we can do some pretty special things,” Helsley said. “I think the seniors we have this year, we’ve all worked really hard since our eighth grade year. And now it’s time to really show up and show off.”