When Colonial Forge opens its inaugural volleyball season against Stafford on Tuesday, the first-year high school will field anything but a rookie volleyball squad simply hoping to compete.
The Eagles may not have a single senior on the roster, but the arrival of two experienced transfers and an overwhelming interest in the sport have left Colonial Forge with rather high expectations.
"Our goal is to beat all the Stafford County schools, since we are all on the same playing field," said Coach Deidre Walker. "Our other goal is to finish with a winning record and develop as a team."
With Commonwealth District schools Brooke Point, North Stafford and Stafford all fielding volleyball teams for the first time, a few experienced players may make the difference between winning and losing this year. And Walker has that experience in Kristin Bryant, a sophomore transfer from Little Rock, Ark., and Jennifer Bloomer, a junior transfer from Carlisle, Pa. The two have been voted team captains by their teammates.
"I was pretty excited that my fellow teammates look up to me," said Bryant, who played on a city champion freshman team last year. "I am really excited about our first match. I think a lot of the girls are really nervous because they have never played in a match before. But I'm a competitor, so I'm really excited. I hate losing, so I don't plan to lose."
Bryant's and Bloomer's experience has not gone unnoticed by their teammates.
"They know what they are doing, so they can tell us if we are doing something wrong," said junior Jenny Thomas, who is playing competitive volleyball for the first time since the seventh grade. "They help us with our technique so we can improve. They're really patient, and they're not snobby or anything, and they try to improve as well."
Both have match experience, which a majority of the team lacks, and Walker said the advantage of that cannot be measured.
"It's very key, because they are not only captains, they are leaders," Walker said. "They have been around the team dynamics of volleyball, and they have helped spread that enthusiasm and team concept within our volleyball team. They are good role models for good volleyball skills."
And enthusiasm appears to be spreading. The number of girls who tried out for the Eagles exceeded expectations--the team was given only 20 uniforms to start the season--and Walker decided to keep an additional 20 girls to play a junior varsity schedule. With the entire varsity team returning next year, Walker sees only room for improvement.
The start-up, however, has not been completely smooth. Fielding six players who never have played on the same court together has resulted in confusion and miscommunication.
"We were just shy, and no one talked to each other," Thomas said of the team's preseason jitters. "We were all just nervous. Now we're all friends and hang out with each other all the time."
CAPTION: Sarah Hall, left, and Erin Millbaugh get in some practice for Colonial Forge's volleyball team, which has no seniors.