Archive for Thursday, August 18, 2005

Business as usual: state reamins the goal

August 18, 2005, 12:00 a.m.

Updated: August 22, 2005, 8:47 a.m.

Casey Welch couldn't stop smiling as volleyball practice ended Monday afternoon at Lansing High School.

For Welch, a fourth-year varsity player, this marked the start of her final year at LHS. It's been a run that has included three trips to state and a 2002 state championship.

In this, her final go-round, Welch plans to savor every moment. The particular moment of her choosing on this day: the new gymnasium floor.

"Our nice new court!" Welch quipped. "I like it a lot better. It's a nice design. I really like it."

Welch was admiring the bold black lines with Lions painted in the corners. The design changed when the floor was resurfaced after a water main pipe leak damaged the floor last winter. The newer, classier look was up to par by Welch's standards.

"We're going to look good whether we do good or not," she laughed. "But we'd love to do good!"

The Lions will have their work cut out for them during the 2005 season if they plan on outshining the glimmer of their new court. Not only will they play another difficult schedule, but they'll have to replace a talented six-member senior class that graduated. Among the players lost was varsity mainstay Emily Goodlin, who will play at Johnson County Community College this fall.

None of those obstacles have the Lions feeling rattled, though. Instead, it's business as usual.

"We want state. That's our top goal," senior Dana Sanders said. "That hasn't changed."

The reason the goal hasn't changed is because a solid nucleus returns from last year's 30-8 squad.

Welch led the Lions in kills last year, Sanders saw extensive action at setter and Dayna Norwood had one of the most lethal serves in the Kaw Valley League. Whitney Lozenski, Kate Courtney and Lauren Griffen also received extensive varsity playing time.

"They're just a very hard-working group of girls," LHS coach Julie Slater said. "The nucleus of them are just really hard workers, and that's awesome."

The varsity returners aren't the only ones who have been working hard, though. Most of the Lions showed up to practice in outstanding shape. In fact, the 2005 Lions should be one of the most physically fit teams in Lansing history. Two-a-day practices ended on Tuesday - the earliest that has happened in Slater's 21 years as coach - because everyone successfully ran a mile in eight minutes or less.

"Everyone came in really fit," Welch said. "A lot of people have been working really hard in the past couple of months playing club ball and working out."

Fans can get their first look at the Lions at 5 p.m. Aug. 25 when they have their Red/White Scrimmage at LHS. The varsity squad opens regular-season play at 9 a.m. Sept. 10 at the Lansing Invitational.

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