It is one of the most common chants of a section of high school students.
The “She’s a freshman” cheer always happens when a newcomer to the college scene makes a bunch of wins, points, or anything of that nature. In most cases, this happens a handful of times during a competition.
For the Rockford volleyball team, this is perhaps the most common chant.
There are seven freshmen on the Warriors roster and four of them are starters and two others have played a handful of sets. The other is a setter who could start in the near future.
“They’re athletic, everyone knows that, it’s no secret,” Rockford head coach Makaela Hoffman said. “It’s kind of a spark.
Even with the high number of youngsters, the Warriors are off to a 7-2 start and could clinch their first winning season since 2018 and just their second in the past decade.
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It’s not just freshmen making small impacts, either.
Hannah Hillman leads Rockford with 64 kills. Danika deBuhr, rhythms her clear presence with 12 blocks in total, four of them solo. Libero Jaylah Schriever is at 114 digs while deBuhr and Hillman each have serve percentages above 90.
“That’s what we were hoping for,” deBuhr said. “A lot of us thought that (would translate) to high school. We’ve been playing together for so long.”
Most of those freshmen were catalysts for the Rockford softball program to achieve a six-win season this summer as eighth-graders, a four-win improvement from 2019 and 2020.
Now it was volleyball that made success happen.
“I’m very proud of us,” deBuhr said. “Some were expecting it and some were just hoping.”
The seven of them played volleyball together throughout the AAU Tour growing up. Still, there’s the adjustment of playing with a new setter in senior McKinnley Hoffman.
There were no problems.
“When people come up to you and say, ‘Oh my God, she’s really improved. Her sets are perfect,'” coach Hoffman said. “She knows how to mix things up. She really led the team.”
McKinnley Hoffman, Camden Kuhlemeier and Loren Fierova have been the mainstays of Rockford’s rotation. This trifecta has gone through a handful of years in their prep career.
They are now enjoying a season of, at this point, a lot more wins.
“I really can’t say enough good things about them,” Coach Hoffman said.
First-year errors still sometimes appear. And a handful of them were amplified in the Warriors’ four-set loss to Newman Catholic on Thursday night.
Passes and service receptions were far from clean. Most of the time when McKinnley Hoffman moved in, it wasn’t in the system. It took the middle out, but deBuhr and Ava Koenigsfeld still combined for 14 kills.
Hillman led with 11 kills.
“She can read the ball well,” Coach Hoffman said of Hillman. “I’d hate to guess (how good she’ll be).”
In most if not all of Rockford’s rotations, Coach Hoffman places two or three freshmen in the back row. She is ready to accept the growing pains that come with it.
“They don’t play like freshmen, but sometimes they make a few freshman mistakes,” she said. “It’s going to happen. As long as we learn from them and move on, that’s all that matters.”
In nine games, the Warriors have yet to face a team with a winning record. North Iowa is 4-4 as the closest team they have beaten with a record over .500.
Their schedule becomes much more difficult.
At the Central Springs Weekend Tournament on Saturday, Rockford will face another seven-win team in Lake Mills, in addition to getting a rematch with Newman Catholic and battling Central Springs.
St. Ansgar and Class 3A No. 10 Osage await you at the end of September.
“Just keep the energy, keep the attitude high,” deBuhr said.
Coach Hoffman is far from concerned about a potential derailment of a season after a loss and a difficult tournament where his team will play five games in the space of five to six hours.
“We could let this break us, but we’re not going to,” she said.
Zach Martin is a sports reporter for the Globe Gazette. Contact him by email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @zach_martin95.