Future looks bright for Men's Volleyball
The past is in the past and the Lakeland Rustlers men's volleyball team is looking towards the future.
Despite a rocky season last year, the Rustlers have a relatively new lineup, but have shown a lot of potential in the pre-season and are looking forward to getting things going this weekend.
Rustlers head coach Daryl Ford said patience is important with this year's team because they're so young, but they've been playing well and working hard so far in the pre-season.
“I think the most exciting part is that the kids have been practicing for six or seven weeks and we've had some really good games. We've had some not so good games, but that's natural when you have as young a team as we have,” Ford said. “We have four players on this team that are 17 or in the last two weeks just turned 18. We're very young. We have 11 out of 16 players that are rookies and they're all straight our of high school. They all have such a great attitude it makes it an awful lot of fun for us to coach them.”
Ford said that the fact that they're young hasn't stopped them from improving already and showing a lot of dedication towards being better players.
“They've been very willing to try anything we've asked of them and it's been a great experience for all the guys,” he said.
With such a young squad, there will be some growing pains and a sharp learning curve, but the potential of this team if they round into form and the future of the men's volleyball program should be in good hands for the next little while.
“We're still going to have some ups and downs, which a young team will have, but I think we're setting the base up for a couple of years of some very good teams here,” Ford explained.
A big plus for Ford and the Rustlers is welcoming back four key players to the lineup.
Ford said having some veteran leadership on and off the court is going to go a long way for the rookies and their development and improvement.
“I would have to say a couple of the returning players, Kendall Albert and Brady Harder especially and you can't forget Nick Williams and Rob Laxdal. The comments have been made by the kids who have come in that they are so happy about how welcome the veterans have made them feel. Those guys have shown great leadership and you throw that in with the fact that we've got some talented players and some kids that are working really hard,” Ford said of the team's strengths and positives so far. “I think what's going to happen and while we may have an up and down first half of the year, by the time we get to the second half we're going to be playing some pretty good volleyball and I think we have a chance to make the playoffs this year, which is the goal.”
The Rustlers open up against the Concordia Thunder with a chance to get off to a good start against a newer program and Ford is hoping the changes in the lineup and the enthusiasm of the young players will pay off.
“The ACAC teams, at least for the start, will underestimate us and hopefully that works to our advantage,” he said. “They are anxious to start the year, they're looking forward to this weekend and playing Concordia.”
The Rustlers are on the road Friday and return home Saturday for their home opener at 8 p.m. At Lakeland Gym.
Courtesy: Robb Fenton