Small But Mighty: Skyline Volleyball Fights to Defend Title of Region Champs
Eagles Head Coach Jami Hutchins talks strategy with the girls before playing Union at the Utah Tournament of Champions. Hutchins has been coaching Skyline for 16 years. –Sarah Almond
Gallery: Skyline Volleyball [3 Images] Click any image to expand.
Though fresh into their season and smaller in numbers than years past, the Skyline High School volleyball team is showing promising signs of a successful season.
“Usually we have about 40 kids come out for tryouts, but this year we only had 25,” Head Coach Jami Hutchins said. “And I only took 22.”
The team graduated nine seniors last year, creating a void the seven newcomers simply couldn’t fill. As luck may have it, however, last season’s misfortunes have benefited this year’s small, young team.
“We were flagged by injuries last year so a lot of the kids this season have some varsity experience,” Hutchins said. “But it’s still a matter of putting it together and playing together.”
Most of the players on the Eagles team play in different volleyball clubs during the offseason, which can pose challenges as the Skyline season begins.
“It’s great that they play club, but they don’t all play together,” Hutchins said. “So now it’s about bringing them back and getting them used to playing together again.”
To facilitate this process, Hutchins makes a point of reviewing diagrams early in the season.
“We talk about what our offense is going to look like and what our defense is going to look like to remind them that all six girls on the court need to be doing the same thing,” Hutchins said. “There isn’t necessarily one offense or defense that’s better, it’s just important that all of the girls are doing the same thing.”
Working together as a team is one of the Eagles’ greatest strengths.
“We all get along well and everyone has good potential,” senior co-captain Maddie Bradshaw said. “Nobody really has an ego and that makes it fun to play together.”
After just a week of practicing together, the Eagles hosted the Utah Tournament of Champions, an annual two-day competition that Skyline has been hosting since 2001.
“We invite teams from all over the state, most of whom come every single year,” Hutchins said. “It’s a great preseason tradition because there is a variety of different skill levels.”
This tournament is invaluable to the Eagles not only because it poses as a good gauge of the team’s skill level, but it also gives them an opportunity to face the tough competition they hope to compete with at the state championship in early November.
“My thought is that early on, wins and losses don’t matter as much,” Hutchins said. “Obviously you want to win, but I want to test every kid and find out in the first two tournaments what each athlete is capable of in every possible situation.”
The Eagles have gone undefeated in the region for the past two years and are two-time defending region champions — a title they hope to retain this season. Despite their decrease in players, Hutchins is confident the group has the talent and determination to uphold Skyline’s winning legacy.
“This team has as much potential as any team I’ve ever coached,” Hutchins said. “In the end though, it will all depend on if we come together or not.”
From a player’s perspective, having a smaller team is a benefit because it means more individual playing time. It also means that each player must do her part and work her hardest to ensure a successful season.
“I’m excited because I think having a small team will be a good challenge to try and take region and go to the state tournament,” senior co-captain Emma Ballif said.