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The success of the Prout girls volleyball team is long standing and well known throughout the stateâ€™s volleyball circuit.
Since 2005, Prout has been on an astronomic rise from Division III to Division I, never losing more than four games in a season for a combined regular season record of 117-9, including four perfect seasons, six division titles and a run of seven straight state championships that lasted from 2004 to 2010.
Most recently, Prout went 15-1 last fall, winning the most recent of those division titles, and advanced to the semifinals, where they lost eventual state runner-up East Providence.
The Crusaders, however, will have a dramatically different look when they take to the court next week in their season opener.
Six of the 13 players off of last yearâ€™s roster, four of whom were named to an All-State team, graduated in the spring, with an even more notable change at the top as former standout Katie Walsh steps in to take over for Dan Greene, long time coach and architect behind the Prout dominance.
It is the kind of change that makes 2013 a prime season to see Prout volleyball take a step back. Walsh and her squad, however, have no intentions of letting that be the case.
â€śI think we have the right group of girls,â€ť Walsh said. â€śI think if they put their minds to it and decide they want to win, they will win. They will be the team to beat.â€ť
There may be a new coach delivering it and a number of new players trying to carry it out, but the message and the mission remain the same for the Prout girls volleyball team as they prepare to open their 2013 season.
Despite the numbers they lost, a long standing tradition of success breeds depth and that is something Walsh feels the Crusaders have and is going to be their greatest asset.
While the young coach is still experimenting to find the right combinations to put into her lineup and the squad continues to build their communication and chemistry on the court, Walsh knows that no matter what lineup she settles on, Prout will continue to be a force.
â€śWe have so much talent on the team. Our bench is going to be very deep this year,â€ť Walsh said. â€śIâ€™m going to feel comfortable going to the bench and using as many players as possible to make sure we see victories and success.
â€śWe have so many girls and each one of them can contribute.â€ť
While wins many be expected from the Crusaders and the general measure for a teamâ€™s success, as she begins to shape her team, Walshâ€™s goals go far beyond just the number in the win column.
â€śWins are great, but what I really want to see is progress throughout the year,â€ť said the coach. â€śIf we start off winning games by a couple points, by the end of the season I want to be crushing teams. I want to see steady progress.
â€śI think itâ€™s how hard the girls are working together, how many people show up and want to practice, really that desire to play. I see that as a huge success.â€ť
Walsh will get her first look at her team in action on Friday night when Prout welcomes in South Kingstown for their annual Injury Fund game.
It is a game she is admittedly â€śecstaticâ€ť about as her final chance to experiment with finding that right lineup heading into next Thursdayâ€™s season opener on the road at North Kingstown. Both contests will have 6:30 p.m. starts.