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Big shoes to fill

After losing seven seniors, Clarke volleyball has plenty of youth to step up and fill the shoes left behind

Kiaya Dunbar (2) slaps the ball over the net during a game last season. Dunbar, according to head coach Shaun Pavlick, will be an integral part to a Clarke team that last multiple influential seniors. Dunbar's experience on the floor and her ability to play at the varsity level will be a major part of Clarke's 2019 season.
Kiaya Dunbar (2) slaps the ball over the net during a game last season. Dunbar, according to head coach Shaun Pavlick, will be an integral part to a Clarke team that last multiple influential seniors. Dunbar's experience on the floor and her ability to play at the varsity level will be a major part of Clarke's 2019 season.

After losing key players from last season, Clarke volleyball is primed to retain its quality of play under head coach Shaun Pavlick

The Indians will no longer have upperclassmen Ashlynn Oehlert, Megan Linskens, Cady Crawford, Sarah Davis, Audrey Kindred, Sydney Garrett and Deseree Stubbe due to graduation. The class finished 8-13 in their final campaign, a season where the Lady Indians struggled in a seven game losing skid before ending the season 7-6.

The seniors departing the Lady Indians leave Clarke with plenty of young talent across the court, but also have experienced players that are taking the jump from the junior varsity level into a regular rotation position.

“We have a good young squad and we have three or four juniors that played really well together on JV last year,” said Pavlick. “It’s a good young squad and we’ve worked hard all summer in camp and open gyms. ... I feel like we’re in really good shape. We have really good athletes, which is a good place to start.”

Pavlick says junior Kiaya Dunbar is an important part of filling in the holes that an influential senior class left and that her varsity experience will be important for the team’s overall success.

“She’s been there, so she kind of gives us a good perspective on playing varsity,” said Pavlick. “She’s one of our chosen captains and her leadership has really been invaluable.”

Pavlick mentioned the style of play for the Lady Indians this season will be a combination of both defensive and hard hitting due to the lack of height .

“We don’t have any six foot tall girls,” said Pavlick. “We’re going to be playing really tight defenses. ... We have to play better defense than every other team because our hitting may not be as strong due to our physical size.”

Pavlick also said with the lack of height it puts the Lady Indians a little behind others, citing a recent scrimmage against a taller Central Decatur, as one example where the Indians struggled.

With the struggles, Pavlick has said he and the girls are working on trying to counter a taller middle blocking group from opponents.

“We’ve been working on what to do when there’s several blockers up and how to hit around them or tip over or roll over,” said Pavlick. “We’ve been working on several different techniques (around it).”

The Lady Indians have formed their roles on the court prior to the season starting, a dynamic that Pavlick said was built naturally and without force, but meaningful court play will dictate the roles of each player down the line.

“It’s just a matter of getting in there and getting some game time and seeing what game speed is. It’s easy to scrimmage in practice, but once you see the game speed it’s a whole different matter,” said Pavlick.

With the weaknesses of his team known, Pavlick feels “cautiously optimistic” about how the South Central Conference standings will shake out this season.

“I feel like, ... we played very well in our preseason scrimmage and we can take a lot of things from that moving forward. I think it gave us some good confidence,” said Pavlick.

As the season gets into full swing, Pavlick and the team are working on offense in practice to take advantage of what heavy hitters the team has.

Pavlick also thinks that having a slightly shorter team will give the Lady Indians a leg up in mobility on the floor.

“I think we’re going to be quicker than a lot of teams. I would say we’re small, but mighty this year. We’ll see how we are going forward.”

The Lady Indians opened the season Thursday with a decisive win over Des Monies North at home.

Clarke was tested early, but took the first set 26-24. It was the most Des Moines North challenged the Lady Indians as Clarke cruised to 25-17 and 25-7 set wins to take the match win.

Stats were unavailable at time of press.

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