That’s all junior Caitlin Keith could feel after finding out she wouldn’t start the season with much playing time on Hickman’s varsity volleyball team. But spending most of the first month playing on the junior varsity level and playing sparingly on varsity helped Keith learn what she needed to work on. Her improvement in practice led to an increase in playing time as an outside hitter in the past two weeks, and in a breakout game, Keith tied for the team lead with five kills in the Kewpies 25-18, 25-15 victory against the Hermann Bearcats on Monday.
“There’s more competition on varsity. The level of competition on JV just isn’t that great,” Keith said. “It’s more fun.”
Keith said the frustration began with her own play in the few chances she did get to hit on varsity. One of the more powerful hitters on the team, Keith wasn’t swinging all the way through the ball or doing what coach Greg Gunn calls “snapping.”
“In the past games, she’s been really tentative,” senior middle blocker Jenny Keener said. “She hasn’t gotten her snap down. But she has power like no other, and when she snaps, it goes straight down.”
Instead, Gunn said Keith would hit more balls off the wall than into play. As a result, Gunn had to start the season playing smaller senior outside hitter Meredith Scheneman in the front of his rotation where he would have rather played the taller, more athletic Keith.
To remedy the problem and alleviate Keith’s frustration, Gunn tried an innovative way to get Keith to follow through on the ball. At practice, he put Keith on top of a box about 2 feet high. Keith would have to snap the ball down on the floor, which was a much easier task thanks to the box.
“After you do that you can feel when (a hit) is going to be good,” Keith said.
Keener said the problem is corrected and was excited that the Kewpies have an extra weapon in their rotation.
“We always tell her to hit in the game like she does in practice and she finally did,” Keener said. “I think the rotation we’re in with her is really working right now.”
With a smile on her face, Keith appeared physically drained after the game. She has been battling the flu, which kept her out of Saturday’s tournament at Lee’s Summitt North.
“We missed her this weekend,” Keener said.
Gunn said another player on the junior varsity, junior outside hitter Kelsey Brucks, could see some playing time on the varsity level. But he was content enough to pump his fist and let out a sigh of relief after describing Keith’s progress.
“We’ve been waiting for Caitlin to come around, and at the beginning of the season she was playing too tentatively and not really opening up,” Gunn said. “Now’s she’s starting to do that. She’s starting to show that. Now she’s starting to have confidence in herself.”