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Roseville coach hoping team can put it all together

September 25, 2013

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Roseville High volleyball coach Tom Pfeifer said this year’s team is the most talented he’s had in his five years with the program. Pictured is senior outside hitter Savannah Ryan, right, during a Sept. 16 match against Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook during a tri meet at Roseville.

ROSEVILLE — Shortly after the Roseville High volleyball team fell to Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse in a 2012 Michigan High School Athletic Association Class A district final, then-junior Megan Juncaj stepped into a leadership role and told other players who would return to the team that they wouldn’t feel the pain of a postseason loss again.

“They all took the district final loss hard, but Megan stepped up and said she didn’t want to feel like that again,” Panthers coach Tom Pfeifer said.

That attitude has stuck with the team, Pfeifer said, as members of the squad worked intensely in the offseason to prepare for the 2013 campaign. Now that the season has started, Pfeifer said he believes his team has the talent to compete with any team it may match up against.

“I truly believe this is the most talented team I’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Pfeifer, who in his fifth year with the program had the Panthers at 4-4-1, 0-1-0 Macomb Area Conference Gold Division at press time.

“We’re really strong at all positions, and I really think that when we’re playing our best, we can play with any team in the state.”

“That means a lot to hear (coach) say that,” senior libero Nikki Franchy said. “It just makes me want to work harder. I know (Pfeifer) has high hopes for us, and I want to be able to help those goals become reality.”

Pfeifer said his players — including senior outside hitter Savannah Ryan, Juncaj and Franchy, who he calls the leaders of the team — worked hard in the offseason to improve their volleyball skills. The Roseville coach said the team’s strength is its hitting.

The Panthers have the physical skills down, Pfeifer said. It’s the mental part of the game the team has struggled with early on and that has led to its average record. The Panthers have already played in a number of tight matches. In each of its losses, Roseville has been felled by just two points each time.

“In those tight matches, you want the girls to want the ball so they can make a play,” Pfeifer said. “We’re not there yet. They’re still at a point where they don’t want to take on that role because they’re afraid to make a mistake. But we’re working to get them out of that.”

Pfeifer said the players are working on late-game scenarios in practice to help them get ready when they’re in similar spots against live competition. To hammer the point home, Pfeifer makes his players run when a mental lapse surfaces.

“We have to keep working on getting ready to be in those types of situations,” said Juncaj, the Panthers’ captain. “If it’s a tie, or we’re down to the last two points, we have to keep fighting and want the ball.”

Ryan said playing well in those late-game situations comes down to confidence. She said Roseville players must learn to take charge in those scenarios.

Getting over those late-game jitters could be key later in the season. Pfeifer said the goal is to win the MAC Gold and a district title. The Panthers last won a division title in 2008. Roseville’s volleyball program has never won a district title.

Pfeifer said the MAC Gold would be tough, adding that he believes defending league champion St. Clair is the favorite to repeat as division champ.

“The girls have worked their tails off,” Pfeifer said. “I’ve worked these girls harder than any team I’ve had in my 16 or 17 years of coaching, and they’ve responded.”

“I think that if we push ourselves as hard as we can and play like we’re supposed to play, I think we can beat a lot of teams.”

The Panthers next hit the court for a matchup against Clinton Township Clintondale (0-2-0, 0-1-0 MAC Silver at press time), set for 5 p.m. Sept. 25 at Roseville.

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