Generals optimistic about volleyball season

Stonewall's Israel Blank, center, celebrates a kill with teammates Juliana Brill, left, and Maria Knuff, right, in a game last season. The Generals return with most of last year's squad and are optimistic about the upcoming season. Rich Cooley/Daily file

QUICKSBURG – Stonewall Jackson has endured several losing seasons  in volleyball, but this season the team feels like the tide may be turning for the program.

With many players back from last year’s team and some strong new additions, the team is feeling good about the season that lies ahead. They are also motivated to avoid another losing season.

“We’re done being the joke – everyone just sees us like that,” Stonewall Jackson senior hitter Israel Blank said on Monday afternoon. “We work a lot harder at practice than people realize. We’re not always messing around. We try – it just doesn’t work. You can only do so much. The team just has to work together.”

Blank said working together is the biggest thing that has to happen for the Generals, who went winless last season, to have some success. Blank said that the team has shown a lot of progress in the offseason and the first week of practice.

“We communicate a lot better,” Blank said. “There are not as many balls hitting the floors in practice, and everyone is just aggressive, and that’s how you’ve got to play.”

Stonewall Jackson coach Lindsey Dinges said one thing that has helped the Generals in the preseason is having nine returning players on the 13-player squad.

“Only four of them have never played for me before, so it’s very beneficial,” Dinges said. “We haven’t had to spend a lot of time going over coverages and things that you would normally have to spend a lot of time with. It’s been great, and we ran open gyms all summer from the middle of May until the week before tryouts, and we averaged 20 kids a day. So these kids are serious about wanting to be better this year and it’s been really great.”

Dinges said that the junior varsity had 27 athletes try out for the team and 13 is the most she has kept on the varsity team in a number of years.

Blank said that having so many returning players helps a lot with team chemistry and the ability to work together.

“It helps with communicating because we know how well each other can adjust and whether to back-up if we need to,” she said.

Blank returns as the team’s top hitter, while Courtney Dellinger is back for her third year as setter. Dinges said that Maria Knauff and Autumn Smith will also provide some firepower up front.

Sophomore Kylene Franklin will be the libero this season, in her second season on the varsity squad.

“She’s a three-sport athlete, and she goes full force,” Dinges said of Franklin.

Dinges said Franklin’s cousin, Lexi Franklin, moved to the area this summer and will add some depth to the front line for the Generals.

Dinges said that in practice there’s been a couple of areas that she’s had the team focus on improving so they can be successful.

“We’ve been working a lot with our hitting approach, making sure we’re using our whole bodies,” Dinges said. “I really want my hitters to be placing the ball more. If you can be strategic about it, it really helps. Serving – I want them to be more consistent at the line serving.”

Dinges said she’s loved the attitude of the team and is excited for the upcoming season, which starts Aug. 21 against Shenandoah County rival Strasburg.

“I feel like this just might be our year,” she said. “I would love to turn some heads and have teams be like ‘oh Stonewall’s a force to be reckoned with this year,’ but we’ll see. We are all pretty positive about it.”