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Former Indians coach returns to volleyball sidelines

By Kelly McHugh

With a new coach, Riley County High volleyball is looking to build a new identity during the 2012 season.

Starting out 2-0 with wins over Chapman and Holton Tuesday night, the Falcons are already seeing improvement. 

Last season, Riley County was 14-21 overall — winning just two matches in its 10 Mid-East League contests.

New Falcons head coach Lori Martini came to Riley County after taking the past two years off from coaching high school volleyball.

Martini is no stranger to the volleyball community around Manhattan, though, as she previously coached the Indians for 12 years.

It’s also not Martini’s first stint with the Falcons, as she coached at Riley County in the late 1980s.

While Martini continued to coach club volleyball and referee some,  it was the high school game she really missed.

“I thought, ‘hey, maybe it’s supposed to be, since I live here,’ ” said Martini, who lives in Riley. “So, I started to check it out and just kind of fell in love with the community all over again. There’s an incredible work ethic with the kids — they work hard and they take athletics pretty seriously.”

Riley County’s volleyball team returns only one senior this season — Bree Busch. A setter and the team’s captain, Busch said the chemistry on the team this season is something unique that comes from being at a smaller school.

“I think having a new coach and having good chemistry, this season is looking positive,” Busch said. “We want to get to sub-state and just do really well there. As for me personally, I just want to get more consistent setting, so it’s easier to get better hits.”

Martini said it is nice to have Busch as a leader on the court, and had only positive things to say about the work ethic and talent level of her lone senior.

“Bree is a leader by example —  she works hard,” she said. “She doesn’t ask anything of anyone else that she wouldn’t do herself. On top of that, she’s well-liked, she’s just nice to everyone, and from the freshman all the way up, she’s just been a great role model.”

Besides Busch and only one freshman — Alyssa Kulp — the Falcons’ roster is made up completely of juniors.

“It’s the kind of thing where they’re young, but still experienced,” Martini said.

After a “well-rounded team effort” during Tuesday night’s matches, Martini said her goals for the remainder of the season are within reach.

“It may seem cliché, but one (of my goals) is to have fun,” she said, “and to teach them as much about the game that they’re willing to grab a hold of.

“So far it’s really been a treat because they’ve just soaked up everything I’m teaching them, and I think they want the challenge. I think they’d like to see the volleyball program build a tradition that the other athletic programs have out here.

“So that would be my goal as well, to make a statement that Riley County is something to be reckoned with, no matter what sport you’re playing.”

The Falcons will be back in action tonight, as they take on Marysville and Rock Creek in Riley.

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