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Staying Tough in Tough District

In the ever-competitive Concorde District, Rams set sights on district tournament.

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Senior Marian Dougherty has been a versatile player for Robinson volleyball coach Jill Pearson. Dougherty has played setter, opposite hitter, outside hitter and has done anything Pearson has asked.

As hard as it is to navigate through the Concorde District’s volleyball schedule, try and explain to a group of 17- and 18-year-old girls that things are heading in a positive direction even though the results might not show it.

For Robinson volleyball coach Jill Pearson, it’s a challenge that she’s used to dealing with. Her players have a more-than-accommodating batch of seniors to help.

“Most people want instant results, and when you’re not doing that, it’s kind of like, ‘Coach, what are you talking about?’ It’s hard to stay with it,” said Pearson. Her team took its 8-8 overall record (2-2 Concorde) into a non-district match up at West Springfield on Wednesday night, which ended after The Connection went to press. “Our theme is to take every match, district or not, and make the adjustments we need to make to prepare for the district tournament.”

<b>CONCORDE DISTRICT</b> teams hold a 76-31 (.710) overall record this season, far surpassing that of the Liberty District (49-48, .505), Patriot District (49-53, .480) and National District (27-60, .310). Pearson’s Rams have played to their offensive strengths and have developed enough defensively to make Robinson a legitimate contender for the district tournament, which begins Oct. 27.

The Rams have worked on their defensive positioning and how they read certain hitters. At the same time, Robinson’s digs per game have increased since the beginning of the season and senior Bailey Banks acknowledged that her team has improved at the serve-and-receive aspect of volleyball.

“I think the big focus for this season has been staying consistent,” Banks said. “At the same time, we’re making the things that we’re not as good at better. Our serve and receive has gotten a lot better over the course of the season.”

Parts of Robinson’s practices are devoted to turning those defensive players into a strong offense. When things have been best for Robinson, as evidenced by quality wins over Stone Bridge, Madison and Fairfax, the Rams are swinging away and jumping with the top teams in the district.

<b>SENIOR SETTER</b> Banks has been a standout player. With the talent of hitters such as sophomore Susie Murach, who has 3.5 kills per game, and senior Marian Dougherty, 1.9 kills per game, Banks might not get all the attention. But she knows that as a setter, her hitters can only perform as well as those sets in front of them.

“I definitely think the setter is someone who’s understated,” said Banks. “The hitters are typically the ones who get the glory, but it’s a mutual relationship. I want to be better to make everyone else better. If I’m having an off game, it makes it harder for everybody else.”

Banks holds the title of “Team Mom” because she’s constantly organized and seems to have anything and everything that her teammates may be looking for. She’s also one of five seniors, along with Dougherty, Wynn Prusaczyk, Carliegh Peterson and Candice Tussing, who’s out for the season after averaging 3.2 kills per game.

However, Banks is not considered the most talkative player on the team. That title belongs to the versatile Dougherty, who has moved from setter, to opposite hitter, and now plays the outside hitter spot. She’s constantly reminding her team of things and being an upbeat attitude to every practice said Pearson.

“To be so versatile, it’s kind of fun because you get to play all the different positions and you get to do everything that volleyball requires you to do,” Dougherty said. “I’m constantly talking on the court. I even ask my teammates if it gets annoying because I say, ‘Keep your body behind this pass, defend the ball, fight for it, win it, be patient,’ and stuff like that.”