Basehor-Linwood’s back-row Bobcats
Bump, set, spike those are the three fundamentals of volleyball. But for two Basehor-Linwood High School volleyball players, it's only the first one that they worry about.
Seniors Briana Barron and Kelleigh Gorup are BLHS's back- row Bobcats. At every meet, in every match, during every game and for every point this season, the only place the two have played is in the back row.
"I love the back row," Barron said. "Before, I was a setter and I hated it."
Gorup, who played exclusively in the front row at the beginning of last season, agreed with Barron and said she loves her new home.
"I'm better at the back row and it's more of a challenge for me, so I love it," Gorup said.
While the two seniors are loving their roles, Mardy Robinson, their coach, is loving it even more.
"Kelleigh and Briana really hustle and they do what they can to help our team," Robinson said. "They've really responded well to their roles on this team and I know that's made us more successful recently."
Robinson said she didn't try to find players who could play only in the back or only in the front. Several Bobcats, including seniors Christina McCarty and Jamie Cochran along with junior Cristin Burnett, play all six positions on the court. But Robinson said that when she took over as the head volleyball coach this season, she just looked at the talent she had, looked at what each player's strengths and weaknesses were, and tried to incorporate that into the rotation. So far, it's a rotation that has worked out wonderfully.
"Things work a lot smoother now," Barron said. "She (Robinson) has figured out a rotation that works great."
Every time Barron or Gorup is supposed to rotate up to the front row, another Bobcat subs in. For Barron, it's big-hitting junior Lindsay Cunningham that comes in. For Gorup, it's the team's all-star blocker, sophomore Katie Burchfield. Then, when it's time for Cunningham or Burchfield to go to the back row, Barron and Gorup sub back in.
The girls say the frequent substitutions make it easier for everybody to stay involved in the game. Robinson says it might not have been possible with last year's rules. In the past, the number of substitutions that were allowed was lower, but this year, a high school volleyball team can make 18 substitutions during one game and that has benefited the Bobcats.
For the most part, playing in the back row means playing defense. The one thing that makes a back row player great is the ability to keep the ball up when the opponent spikes it down. Barron and Gorup know their role is to dive, jump, roll and twist to get to whatever balls they can. They both said that digging is the most important part of jobs and that a team can't do anything without good digs. Occasionally, however, they've gone overboard.
"I've hurt her pretty bad," Barron said of running into and over Gorup. "We play right next to each other and we're the most aggressive players on the court so sometimes we just bang into each other."
While Barron and Gorup have both given in to the fact that they won't be the big point getters on the team and they won't be the most visible players on the team, they both still relish the chances they get to score points with their serves.
After sitting out for three rotations, Barron and Gorup rotate back in when it's time to serve. Barron said that sitting on the bench and then coming in to serve immediately makes her focus more on her serving and that means she gets more in.
"That's the only offense we do," Barron said. "You have to concentrate even more since you're coming in off the bench, but I love serving. I usually look for a weak player and just go at them."
Occasionally, after a mad scramble or a break down in the front row, one of the back row Bobcats will have to spike the ball over the net. But Gorup said her spikes and McCarty's spikes are quite different.
"I like to spike," she said. "But my spike's more of a roll-over spike where I don't even leave my feet. Serving's really where I get my points and even that is not really up to me."
What is up to Gorup, as well as Barron, is the success of this team. These players set the tone for the entire team. When the rest of the Bobcats see them hustling after every ball and sacrificing their bodies even if it's just bumping into each other that becomes contagious. And, in volleyball, the team that hustles the most usually wins.
"Having five seniors on the team definitely makes a difference," Robinson said. "Those girls are really hustling in the back row and I think that's helping out the entire team."
The Bobcats have just four meets remaining before sub-state and the next one is Tuesday, Oct. 2, at home.