Innovation girls volleyball in rebuilding mode after state tournament loss

Published on Wednesday, 13 November 2019 19:32
Written by MATT HORNICK

@MNHornick

BRISTOL - Monday’s loss to St. Paul in the first round of the state tournament means it is officially the offseason for the Innovation girls volleyball team.

And for the Ravens head coach Matt Lance that means it is time to restart. 

“Next year is going to be a complete rebuild,” Lance said. “We’re losing a lot of seniors. We’re trying to get a lot of younger girls to go play in the offseason so they can develop their skills. I mean, we’re still going to have the same expectations in terms of culture and what we’re supposed to do next year. I think next year we’re going to look very different from how we looked this year.”

Innovation finished the regular season 11-10 and won their conference tournament once again. But it was also a learning experience, because of the schedule the team played. The Ravens added matches against schools such as New Britain, St. Paul and Cromwell.

‘It’s easily the toughest schedule we’ve ever had,” Lance said. “We played a couple of [Class] L schools and LL. We scheduled St. Paul out of conference as well, Bolton [too]. I told them on paper you’re used to getting 15 or 17 [wins] per season, but we played a tougher schedule so we could represent ourselves well in states and try to be more competitive and I thought for the most part we were able to do that.”

Much of establishing a culture for a program such as Lance’s is about more than just success, it requires learning from the established programs and finding a way to carve a niche around them. The Ravens have had success in both the regular season and the postseason, but Lance wanted his players to try and find that success on a larger scale this year.

“A lot of people don’t know about us,” Lance said. “We haven’t made a lot of noise at the state level, a couple of years ago we did actually qualify for the quarterfinals of Class S and we lost to Holy Cross. Last year, we lost in the second round of Class M so we’ve been there before.”

That also means, as Lance said, for his players who are returning to continue to develop their skills. The head coach is often working with players who have little experience playing volleyball, if any. This wide range of skill levels influences the way he coaches his team every year and the culture he is trying to build within the program.

“It’s always based around fundamentals,” Lance said. “We’ve never had monster hitters. We always base our program on ball control and serve receive and things like that. So we have a lot of younger girls who are just completely new to volleyball and they are going to have to spend a lot of time in the offseason developing those skills.

“But that’s kind of the rebuild. It’s all a foundation of serve receive. Let’s play well defensively and if we have some of these girls who develop. I have a sophomore and freshman middle hitter who have experience, but we have a lot of spots to fill. I told them if you work in the offseason we’ll come back next year and see where you are, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or mhornick@bristolpress.com



Posted in New Britain Herald, Innovation on Wednesday, 13 November 2019 19:32. Updated: Wednesday, 13 November 2019 19:35.