Basalt spikers will be on the defensive in ’08 |

Basalt spikers will be on the defensive in ’08

Nate Peterson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad The Aspen Times

BASALT ” The question is one that Basalt girls coaches will be hearing all year: How to replace one of the most talented senior classes in school history?

Longhorns volleyball coach Dave Drozd found himself at a loss for words Monday afternoon when he was asked just that after a spirited practice in the high school’s auxiliary gym.

“Yeah, there’s no doubt that talent-wise we’re not as talented as what we used to be,” said Drozd, who returns to lead the Longhorns this season after taking last year off. “I believe what’s going to get us by is our heart and desire. We’re a lot smaller, and I just think that we’re going to have to win different ways than we won in years past.”

The biggest challenge for Drozd and the Longhorns will be getting over the hangover that comes with losing Dayne Toney, the 3A Western Slope’s most dominant player last season.

Toney and her lanky 6-foot frame are now in Santa Barbara, Calif., where the former Basalt star is trying to make it onto the court for the Division-I Gauchos. As the adage goes, everyone is replaceable, although Drozd said there is no one on his roster who will be able to match Toney’s 361 kills, 83 blocks and 345 digs from a year ago ” all near the top of 3A.

Gone also are league honorable mention selections Kat Fitzpatrick and Alia Munger, both of whom provided leadership and hustle to a team that in 2007 was one win away from a second consecutive state berth.

To vie for another league title, Drozd said the undersized Longhorns are going to have to earn it the hard way: By playing scrappy defense and being precise when it comes to passing and serving.

“It’s going to have to be a definite team effort and everyone is going to have to be on the same page,” he said. “We’re going to have to do the little things to win games. We’re not going to blow any teams out. We’re going to have to win those last couple points in each game.”

For leadership, Drozd will lean on his two most experienced players, seniors Heather Nemiec and Shelby Holmes.

Both players ” who had coming-out seasons last year to earn first-team all-league honors ” came up in the program playing second fiddle to older sisters who were stars. They’re now relishing the opportunity to lead.

“The seniors have always been big leaders for the team, so now we have to carry that out because we’re the seniors,” said Holmes, an outside hitter who finished last season with 165 kills and 339 digs.

Nemiec, a middle blocker, shined in the service game in 2007, recording 52 aces. She also dug up 300 balls.

It’ll likely be more this season, because Nemiec doesn’t expect Basalt to be blowing away teams at the front of the net.

“We have to play really, really good defense,” she said. “That’s what our team is going to be about. We don’t have much height, but we have a lot of quick players, so if we can play good defense, we can compete with anyone.”

Two other key returnees are junior setter Kehau Vegas ” the only returning honorable mention selection from last season ” and senior defensive specialist Savanna Gustafson.

Past that, the Longhorns are green. Juniors Jade Johnson, Ashley Soucie and Emily Morley all have limited varsity experience, as do senior Zoe Herreid and newcomers Abby Norton and Jenna Lindeen.

“There are a lot of big shoes to fill,” Nemiec said. “We just hope that we can be the good leaders that the seniors before us were and we can lead our team to the same success we had with them.”

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