Colossal climb and crash to sports numbers builds chemistry

The softball team stands at the dug-out fence to cheer on their team’s batters against North Bend on Aug. 22. The girls’ record so far this season is 2-1, and they hope for another win at the Freeman triangular on Aug. 25

Becca Meusch

As the new fall sports seasons kick off, there are always major changes to be made from the previous season. This season in particular, the volleyball team has suffered a dramatic drop in numbers and football is fighting back with their small team as well.

Going from a team of around 22 girls to 11 in the summer, the volleyball team has gone through numerous changes. At this point in the season, they have managed to raise their numbers to 17, however, something is still different about the team.

“The small numbers have made me close to my teammates because you have more time to get to know them in practice. We are a lot closer and have learned to trust each other and work together,” sophomore volleyball player Morgan Eickmeier said. “I’ve gotten to know the girls around me on a more personal level and have been able to connect with them as I’m playing.”

Eickmeier said the volleyball team was always doing things together during the summer to benefit their team chemistry. The team attended multiple camps, went to open gyms, and lifted weights. They also conditioned as a team several weeks ahead of time, played sand volleyball together, and hosted team bonding events such as swimming at a teammate’s cabin. The volleyball team hopes to further their chemistry as the season goes on and is planning to attend an escape room in September.

Due to the lack of competition for spots and positions, Eickmeier said that having a smaller team is easier to have fun together. Although low numbers make drills difficult, players have gotten to have more fun while adjusting to a new coach and different positions.

“We will have our ups and downs. Our team is a lot smaller, but I think the girls are a lot closer. We are really good at encouraging each other most of the time,” Eickmeier said. “We might not win as many games as last year, but I think that we will have more fun doing it because we know that we are a younger team and don’t have as many seniors as last year.”

This seems to be the case for the football team the past few years too. Last year, the football team had the scare of having to recruit more players to keep from either dropping to eight-man football or merging with Schuyler. Either way, the team knew they just had to get more people out.

“Well, we have more guys out than we did last year. We are closer as a team than we were last year. The last several years we haven’t been as successful as a team, so it’s hard to get people out so we can be good again,” junior football player Riley Kirby said. “I think that if we could get more people out we could be a lot better.”

The low numbers pose difficulties when doing drills because people get worn out faster without substitutes for positions, Kirby said. However, the smaller team again this year has improved their team bond and everyday before practice they listen to music to become upbeat.

This summer the football team also bonded and shared great memories, especially at the team camp in South Dakota where they went fishing and sang karaoke with another team.  

“Usually, on other team, there are groups of kids who hang out and another group that doesn’t; but we don’t do that, and we are all one team and have a great time,” Kirby said.

Softball hit a home run this year with numbers and combined with Shelby-Rising City, making it a three school merge along with East Butler. Head Coach Greg Jahde called his team an “army”, which now consists of over 30 girls, making it one of the biggest teams in a long time.

“It [the merge] made a lot more competition for everyone, but also the other girls who came from Rising seem to fit in pretty well, and everyone gets along with them,” senior softball player Kaylyn Dubbs said.

Merging has made the opportunity to unite different groups of girls, but it does pose some challenges with practices. Dubbs said the large team makes it hard to get everything done at practice and for everyone to always be doing something to help the team.

Although new friendships have been made on the team, the increased competition can make it hard. The team is looking forward to a successful season, though, because they have different options for each position now, Dubbs explained.

“I think we will do good this year now because we have a lot more pitchers, like six, and it is not just one person. You have to compete this year, so you will be really good if you get that position, but there could be some hurt feelings,” Dubbs said. “I think we are all pretty close now. It was kind of awkward for the first couple of days because not everyone knew each other, but once everyone got to know each other it was fine.”