The 2023 season for the White Pine High School girls volleyball team has begun.
White Pine, who won each of its first three matches, including a 2-0 sweep over Lincoln County from Panaca, played a couple of tournaments to find its bearings and figure out what they needed to do ahead of the bulk of the schedule.
“We’ve had a strong preseason,” said first-year head coach Michael Berry. “Our varsity took third in our home tournament and then fourth, the following weekend in our Battle Mountain tournament that we go to.”
Berry, who took over for Kenna Almberg as the varsity head coach, has been at White Pine for the last seven years as the junior varsity coach and received a promotion this year.
The rookie varsity head coach said he has been enjoying his time in his new role as he works out the kinks, like his players in the early portion of the season.
“It’s been good. It’s definitely a lot more than being the assistant coach.” Berry said about his adjustments. “I’m realizing it’s not anything that’s impossible. I love the sport of volleyball and this program. Following Kenna’s footsteps is super huge, and she was (coaching here for) 16 seasons, probably one of the longest tenured coaches we’ve had.
“She started an amazing program, and I was happy to help her out through that for the last eight seasons. So, I’m just hoping to continue what she built in my own way and make it that much better.”
After going 4-4 in the non-league portion of the season, Berry and his squad opened up 2A South action on Sept. 8 with two matches against Laughlin High School.
White Pine won both matches in straight sets, 25-8 and 25-12 in the first matchup and 25-18, 25-11 in the second a couple hours later.
As of Sept. 11, White Pine ranks No. 8 in Nevada Class 2A and No. 49 in the state, according to Maxpreps.
Berry said the competition in the 2A South is always challenging and will get the best out of his players this season.
“Lincoln is always a good rivalry of ours that we always seem to go back and forth with. Lake Mead has a really good program,” Berry said. “We play a lot of these private schools in Vegas. Lake Mead, Lincoln, Awakened Christian are also good and there’s two new teams that we’ve never faced.”
Those new teams to the 2A South are Adelson and Green Valley Christian, whom the latter was first in the 1A South division standings last year.
What is unique about White Pine’s schedule is that it is split into two portions. After their second match against Laughlin, the Ladycats will not face another team until Sept. 28, nearly three full weeks in between games.
White Pine will continue its league season on road against Adelson on Sept. 28 at 5 p.m. followed by two matches against Awakened Christian also on the road in Las Vegas about 24 hours after that.
Despite not playing for 19 days, Berry said there will still be things to work on not only on the court, but also off the court.
“It’ll be good because we can do some things,” Berry said. “We’ve got some plans to maybe go to a college game for some team bonding, things like that to keep them involved and keep them excited about the season.”
Playing these difficult teams in league is the reason why Berry put the schedule together for his team to prepare for 2A South play.
Through this first portion of the schedule, Berry has seen some good things and bad things on the court that only improve this squad as the season progresses.
However, he said it has been the defense and its middle blockers finding steam so far this season.
“Probably overall would be middles and defense had the strongest start so far,” Berry said. “The plus side is with the team that I have this year I’ve got a lot that can play multiple positions. So that’s the exciting thing, but two of my middles and then my libero, who is strictly defense, have really been shining a little bit more than everybody else.”
As the calendar flips to October, and the heart of the 2A South schedule, Berry and the Ladycats will have its eyes eventually set on the playoffs as the 2A South Divisional round, which will be on home soil at White Pine.
“We’re hosting divisions this year so the first step is to make it to divisions. The second step will be when divisions are here we can make it to stand again. It’s been four years now since we’ve been to state,” Berry said of the team’s postseason aspirations.