EASTPOINTE — East Detroit volleyball coach Kevin Nugent paid his team the ultimate compliment during a Sept. 5 practice.
“This is the hardest working team I’ve had since 2005, when I was at (Macomb Community College),” the fifth-year Shamrocks coach said.
Nugent said his group, with four returning players on a roster of 12, must use every minute they’re together to work on physical skills, as well as communication and jelling as a team. Nugent said none of his girls play club volleyball, meaning the only time they are together is the prep season.
East Detroit (0-4 at press time) also loses time with players because some play other sports at the school.
“We’ve had a lot of turnover the last few years, so we’ve been working in a lot of new players,” Nugent said. “So we have to maximize our practice time. It’s a challenge to make up some of the time other teams have together.”
Nugent is optimistic because the four returning players — three sophomores and a junior — all have varsity experience under their belts. He added many of the players on his roster have the athleticism needed to compete in the Macomb Area Conference Bronze Division.
“We definitely have some things to build on,” said Nugent, adding that his team also features four players new to volleyball. “There’ll be some ups and downs, but I can see we’re improving.”
Junior Natalie Sobczak, a three-year varsity player who Nugent tapped as one of the leaders of the team, said she sees the group of middle hitters as having taken the biggest strides this season. She said they’re doing a better job of blocking and making plays.
“I think we’re coming together as a team, too,” sophomore Victoria Grimes said. “Being together and getting more time on the court as a unit can only help us.”
Although the team struggled last season, finishing tied for last in the MAC Silver Division, Nugent believes this group can contend for a division title.
“It’s definitely a realistic goal. We know there’ll be some tough games in the division, but we’ll be better at the end of the year than at the start. Also, I want to keep the interest these girls have in volleyball, so they keep coming back.”
The Shamrocks next hit the court for a road matchup with Warren Lincoln, set for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 13 at Lincoln.