Manhattan Volleyball

Manhattan sophomore middle blocker Bonnie Hegarty (21) digs the ball during last season's home match against Concordia. Hegarty and the Indians split two matches to open the 2019 season Tuesday.

The Manhattan High varsity volleyball team has yet to play a game but already has performed well enough to surprise first-year head coach Krista Schmitz.

The sport has been part of Schmitz’s life since she could “hold a ball.” She’s entering her 10th season as a coach. She’s been with Manhattan High since 2016. Schmitz was the junior varsity coach for two years and worked as an assistant on the varsity team in 2018 under the recently retired Lisa Kinderknecht. But coaching the varsity squad isn’t the only first she’s experienced in 2019.

“This team is good and can be really good,” Schmitz said. “I’ll be honest: I’ve never seen a team not let the ball hit the ground like this before.”

A major factor in this is versatility. Schmitz said many of the players on her roster can play two, if not three, positions.

“We have several players who can play on the outside, and that gives us a lot of versatility,” Schmitz said. “Some of them also are able to move into the middle or up front, and I think that’s something a lot of teams don’t have. So we are going to utilize that.”

This could be crucial because the Indians lost some key pieces from 2018, including three of The Mercury’s All-Flint Hills volleyball team selections in Brooklyn Cink, Kia Wilson and Haleigh Harper.

Cink led the Indians in kills with 216, Wilson had 188 kills herself paired with 20 serving aces and Harper led the team in digs with 371, which was 171 more than her closest teammate.

Still, the Indians bring back six seniors and five juniors, several of whom already played critical roles on the team last year.

Chloe Robison and Bonnie Hegarty played often for the Indians last season even as sophomores.

So even the underclassmen on the team, if the juniors can even be considered that, are toned with varsity experience. How Schmitz feels about her team’s versatility is a note of importance.

She didn’t want to talk up any specific players because the contributions from her roster have been of equal importance, she said.

“Right now we are focused on everyone’s contributions and not any particular person,” Schmitz said. “Every player so far has been able to contribute in important ways and that’s what we’ve talked about so far.”

The experience and flexibility are important strengths to have early in the season, but Schmitz said she wants her team to stay grounded because the hard work is still coming. Schmitz said she’s made sure her team remained aware of this.

“Something we’ve worked on is just knowing our limits and capabilities,” Schmitz said. “We want to play aggressive. And we can, but we don’t want to push ourselves too far.

“I think there will be times in games where we need to get a point and we will say ‘All right, let’s do something simple,’ and that will be better than over complicating things.”

The Indians’ started their season with a pair of matches on the road Tuesday evening in DeSoto.

Manhattan played the host, DeSoto, as well as Shawnee Heights.

Schmitz said she’s fully prepared for the season to start and is eager for her debut campaign as the varsity coach to get underway.

“I’m really excited for this upcoming season and the opener on Tuesday,” Schmitz said. “It’s hard not to be with this group, because they all are really passionate about their love for the game. That’s how I am, too.”