The Armstrong volleyball team enters the 2017 season with high aspirations, as the Falcons field a talented team that they feel can send the squad to a deep section run.
Armstrong began the 2017 season with a 25-18, 25-21, 25-23 victory over St. Louis Park Aug. 24.
“I feel like we have a lot of work to do,” Armstrong head volleyball coach Ayesha Khan said. “Not to discredit St. Louis Park, they’re a fine team, but we relied a little bit too heavily on [junior outside hitter Lauren Clark] in the first set.
“We have a strong group of front-row players, really all five of them, so I’m looking to see them vary it up a little bit, because bigger blockers know about Lauren.”
Armstrong used its first match of the season to give freshman Ryley Frye her first experience as a setter at the varsity level.
“I thought our serve-receive looked good,” Khan said. “We’re still a little inconsistent on setting, we have a freshman in Ryley Frye that we have given the offense as of today.
“Maddie Zenanko is a senior captain and we asked her to step into the libero role. We have a lot of pieces that we have been moving around, so we have to put everybody in a place where the team can be successful.”
While Frye served as a right side hitter last season for the Falcons, Frye serves as a setter for her club team during the offseason.
“Despite her being a freshman, this is her third year on varsity, and she sets for her club team, Northern Lights,” Khan said. “It’s not that we asked her to change positions, the setter role just wasn’t open.
“If we had more choices at libero, Maddie would get the offense, but the fact is she gets some really nice digs at libero and we’re happy with having her in the serve-receive every game.”
With Armstrong looking to shake off the rust in its first match of the season, Khan saw some positive signs from her squad.
“St. Louis Park is a section team, so it is important that we come out against them and take them in three,” Khan said. “They were closer sets than I could have liked to see them, but I think we need to work on connecting.
“We have a young setter, so you could see we weren’t connecting all the time. I was pretty pleased with our serve-receive, but I would like to see our serve get a little more aggressive. All in all, we have to get better at ever skill if we’re going to reach our goal, which is to do really well in sections.”
Clark felt the team should be mostly pleased with how it played against St. Louis Park.
“I feel pretty good, but I feel we could have done a little bit better,” Clark said. “I think with time we will come a long way, but this is a good assessment to see where we’re at.”
With such high hopes, Clark said it will be important for the Falcons to play as well as possible against the state’s top teams.
“I think we really want to face the tougher teams this season and do great against them,” Clark said. “I think we’re definitely looking toward state, but we’re hoping to play against our conference first and see how we match up.”
While players such as Clark may be hoping the Falcons reach the state tournament, Khan is doing her best to make sure her team takes the season in the season one game at a time.
“All the girls talk about the state tournament, but it’s a bit early to be promoting that,” Khan said. “That is in the back of their mind, we are in a section that we should be a contender in, but we have to keep in mind that we have to step it up every day and get a little better.”
Armstrong will play its next game of the season against Eden Prairie at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 2, at Eden Prairie High School.
Follow Sun Post sports editor Chris Chesky on Twitter at @MNSunSports or @SunSportsChris and on Facebook at SunSportsStaff.