BLOOMFIELD HILLS — It dawned on Bloomfield Hills Marian volleyball coach Irick Gardner just last evening.
“What I was trying to do is force a style that’s worked the last four or five years, but you know, I don’t have those types of players. You can’t run those styles with a different type of player,” he said during practice Aug. 27.
The Mustangs are young, which they’ve been before, but the difference comes in team height.
Marian lacks it, meaning Gardner has gone from a more aggressive style with quick sets and power shots to a more patient attack where shot selection is key.
“It’s such a different team that there have been a lot of adjustments to find out the best combination,” Gardner said.
Marian has one returning starter in junior Jessie Kopmeyer and three others who saw time last season.
Its potential starting lineup includes one senior, two juniors, two sophomores and then either a freshman or another sophomore or junior.
Kopmeyer, a Troy resident, said last year’s loss in a Class A regional semifinal has been motivation for her to take this team further. It was the first time in at least five years that the Mustangs didn’t make it to at least the state semifinals.
“I’m one of the only players that came back and knows what we went through last year. So I know what to expect and the level that we need to play at,” she said. “I’m trying to take that to the court, because I think we can get really far if we play together again.”
Irick hopes the team’s fight and chemistry proves to be its strengths.
“I’ve seen it happen already. We’ve been in a few situations where they’ve found a way to come back and win. That’s impressive with younger players,” he said.
Gardner also won’t let the youth be an excuse for lowering the program’s standards. In his first season with the program five years ago, the Mustangs made a run all the way to the finals before losing.
“That team was even younger than this team, and if they can make it, the expectation for me is that we should be able to accomplish close to the same things that they did,” he said. “It’s good for me to see that, but I’m not on the court. They have to see the same potential, because the same potential is there.”
Though still a junior, Kopmeyer is a three-year starter and was part of the state championship team in 2010. She’s being counted on to help bring the Mustangs to an elite level.
“My freshman year, our leaders expected so much out of the team,” she said. “They really brought out the best in everyone, which I think a good leader should do, and what I hope I can do.”