With a goal of building “good team chemistry,” the West Liberty High School volleyball team will have a major test this Saturday as they open their season at Grinnell High School in a 12-team tournament that begins at 9 a.m.
Host Grinnell will be joined by Carlisle, Clear Creek Amana, Dallas Center-Grimes, East Marshall, Iowa Valley, Lynnville-Sully, Mount Pleasant, Norwalk, South Tama County and Washington, as well as the Comets, who follow next Thursday, Sept. 2, with their first home game against Tipton beginning at 7:15 p.m.
Following a 26-7 campaign last year that included a 17 game winning streak to open the season as well as a River Valley Conference tournament title with a win over neighboring rival Wilton, the Comets finished their Class 3A campaign just one game away from a return trip to the state finals, losing to top-four finisher Davenport Assumption in three straight games including a pair by just two points each.
Coaches Ruben Galvan and Brittney Bioffeli aren’t focusing on the past, but looking toward the future behind their six returning letter winners that include two returning starters, senior outside hitter Macy Daufeldt and libero Monica Morales, a junior. The Comets also return senior middle hitter Mylei Henderson, junior setter Brooklyn Buysse, and two defensive players, juniors Rylee Goodale and McKinzie Akers.
Returning members of the team also include Kylie Struck, Maelyn Wainwright, Rilee Han and Magaly Kivi.
Galvan, who is now in his 21st year with West Liberty, said the team is “very fortunate” to have players back in key positions and said he plans to “definitely build around that talent with the incoming new varsity members.”
The team’s schedule helps prepare the Comets annually for what is hoped to be a state final run including battling in tournaments in Muscatine, Williamsburg, Western Dubuque and Cedar Rapids before the conference tournament in mid-October. Many of those tournaments include bigger class schools or teams that regularly finish among the best in Class 3A. “This gives the team the opportunity to become the best team as possible,” Galvan said.
Galvan said his team is fortunate to compete in a very competitive conference and says his Comets can’t overlook any opponent. “Our focus is to always compete at the highest level,” he said.
The coach said the team is “excited” about the opportunity to put their off-season and in-season training into action right away at Grinnell, but said the team’s focus this season is “to become a unit,” noting the Comets have “very little, if any,” varsity experience on the roster. He said it would be important to build good team chemistry, learning each other’s habits and Galvan says by accomplishing that, “the rest will take care of itself.”
Other members of the team including freshman Gaby Moralez, freshman Sophie Buysse, junior Magaly Kivi, freshman Ava Morrison, senior Aly Harned, freshman Kylie Struck, sophomore Rilee Han and sophomore Maelyn Wainwright.
Galvan said building team chemistry will be important to the success of the team this season, noting players will need to “understand their individual roles and how they can help their teammates in any way possible.”