By Dave Wagner
ELIDA — Elida volleyball coach Darrell Chenault knows the road to winning a District 3-1A championship this fall goes through Fort Sumner.
The Lady Tigers posted a 16-7 record in 2003, finishing second to Fort Sumner in district play before reaching the state Class 1A tournament. But they and the rest of the district have their work cut out trying to dethrone the Vixens.
“Fort Sumner brings all six starters back,” he said. “With (three-time defending 1A champion) Des Moines finally going down a little, I look for (Fort Sumner) and Tatum to be the top teams in the state.”
In addition, senior setter Casey Ford is slowly coming back from a torn ACL sustained during the 1A state basketball tournament in March. She’s working out with the team and her rehab has gone well, Chenault said, but he added that she hasn’t regained all of her lateral movement and doesn’t expect her to play for most of the first month.
“Our district doesn’t start until Sept. 23, so we’re going to be pretty conservative with her,” he said, adding that sophomore Lindsey Ward will likely get the assignment at setter early in the season.
Those things don’t phase Lady Tigers senior Adrienne Coe.
“(Fort Sumner is) a really good team, but if we work hard enough we can stay with them,” said the 5-foot-10 outside hitter said. “I think we’re gaining on them every year.
“We really had a good team last year; we worked so hard. But we can get there again.”
As a senior, Coe said she’s adjusting to the role of being a team leader.
“It’s thrown me for a loop,” she said. “I’ve never had to be a team leader. You want to push the team and sometimes they don’t want to be pushed.
“But I know I was like that when I was younger.”
Along with Ford and Coe, seniors Amber Griffin and Shalie Anthony are also returning starters from last year’s squad that lost in the state quarterfinals to eventual runnerup Tatum.
“Adrienne and Amber will be out outside hitters, and Shalie’s kind of our defensive specialist,” Chenault said. “Our game will go as far as our passing and setters go.”
Chenault, in his fourth season as Elida’s coach, said the Lady Tigers can’t worry about Fort Sumner right now.
They just want to get their own house in order.
“Our game will go as far as our passing and setters go,” Chenault said.