The progression was slow at Leavenworth High School's first varsity volleyball practice of the season.
The players started practicing spiking by standing on a table and receiving a feed from head coach Ashley Rogers. Next, the table was removed and Rogers fed players the ball from the other side of the net. Finally, she removed herself from the drill, letting a setter hit the balls to the individual players.
Much like the first drill of practice, Rogers said the Pioneers 2014 campaign is a work in progress. The team returns a handful of senior leaders, but will also have multiple underclassmen playing crucial roles on the varsity squad.
Rogers said because of the young players at important positions on the floor, developing team chemistry will take time and experience.
"Early on, being totally realistic, we're going to struggle a little bit because we're learning," Rogers said. "We have a freshman setter, we have a sophomore setter, we have a sophomore libero. We have some key positions that are young so just learning how to play those positions."
Because of the mixed-bag roster the Pioneers will be sporting, Rogers said the Pioneers will rely heavily on their senior leadership early on.
Leading the pack is senior middle hitter Mahogani Gant. As a junior, Gant totaled 113 kills averaging 1.4 kills per set.
Gant said for this season, the Pioneers will need to work on their killer instinct for late-game situations.
"Yeah, the Sunflower League is a really hard league," Gant said. "But I think we need to go down with a fight. ... No matter how hard we're getting (beat), we're going to play every point like it matters."
Another key returner, Rogers said, is senior outside hitter Micha Frasher, who totaled 112 digs, 20 assists and 33 kills as a junior.
Rogers said the Pioneers' performance on the court often hinges on how well Frasher is playing.
"Micah Frasher is an all-around just tough, very intelligent player," Rogers said. "I look for her to have a large leadership role. She's not one to talk a lot, but she leads by example."
Frasher said the team will need to spend time building chemistry before they start playing to their strengths.
"We have a lot of potential," Frasher said. "We haven't reached it yet, but once we kind of click, I think we could do really well."
After a long summer of workouts, and with tryouts concluded, the Pioneers are now charging toward their first games of the season Sept. 2 at St. Thomas Aquinas High School against Aquinas and Mill Valley High School.
Senior outside hitter Shelby Ogden said the key to starting this year out well lies with the team's balanced attack.
"We have strengths in both the front row and the back row," Ogden said. "We all bring something different to the team and I think we have a really good shot to go far this year."
But Rogers cautions against expecting a quick start to the season.
However once the team begins to gel offensively, she said, the Pioneers will be a force in the Sunflower League.
"We'll go through some growing pains," Rogers said. "By and large, if we can pass the ball, we are going to attack on a lot of people and assuming things go the way they should, we're going to be difficult to stop."