COVENTRY — Motivation was never an issue for last year’s Coventry girls volleyball.
Coming into the season the Oakers were motivated to prove they were good enough to wear the same uniform as the 2011 state champions. And they became even more motivated to win a title after tough defeats to East Providence and Prout late in the regular season.
Sam Higgins, Jill Ward and the Oakers carried that motivation all the way to a state-title sweep of East Providence.
So, what is motivating a group of girls who have been to the mountain top to do it all again this year?
“We’re all more comfortable with each other, but I don’t think this season is that much different to team,” said Higgins, who established herself as one of the premier middles in the state last year. “We love that feeling of winning and we want to do it again. No one expected us to do it last year, so someone could do it to us. We love the game and want to be competitive.”
“I think it’s the same as last year, but we just need to work together,” Ward said. “We want to be back at Keaney Gym.”
Motivation is certainly not an issue for coach Leo Bush and assistant coach Jill Krebs. The duo has been churning out talented teams for nearly a decade and that has drawn athletic girls who have never played volleyball to come out and learn the sport.
Bush has coached kids long enough to know that part of winning is the journey and he hopes his seniors enjoy the two-month ride they are about to embark on.
“They understand that they can’t fast forward to that final day of the season,” Bush said. “You have to stop and take in what they’re going to go through. The environment they are going to play in this year with their fans and parents at games both here and on the road, they’re going to need to enjoy the journey.”
They journey officially began last Monday when the team began practicing for the new season. Unlike last year when Bush needed to teach a bunch of varsity neophytes how to play his up-tempo style of volleyball, the Oakers came into the start of practice ready to go.
Aside from a couple of players who were playing spring sports, most of the Oakers played off-season volleyball following the state title.
“We’re a team that’s almost already at full stride,” Bush said. “We have a couple spots that people are fighting for, but for all these girls returning from last year, it’s just different. They have these expectations and they’re shifting their focus to have as much fun as they can until that weekend in November.”
Coventry has unofficially become the epicenter of Rhode Island high school volleyball after the boys team won the state title in the spring. Bush coached the boys team until 2003 when the sport was switched to the spring season.
Bush said he was pleased for boys coach Jonathan Bartlett, who Bush coached the 2003 state final against Hendricken.
“That was awesome for them,” Bush said. “I coached Jonathan when he went down with an injury in 2003. For him to do that was just fantastic.”