In 2012, the White Knoll volleyball team knew that change was coming. They just did not know what form that change would take.
“It seems like every year White Knoll gets a new volleyball coach, so we were expecting it,” said senior Tierra Small.
But when their coach left to start the program at the new River Bluff High, the Timberwolves did not know what to expect of their new coach.
Eric Shick joined the White Knoll program in 2012, as junior varsity coach, in anticipation of then-coach Cindy Robarge-Esposito’s departure.
Shick’s plan for the Timberwolves was designed to effect one major change — the new coach aimed for this to be the year the Timberwolves survive the Class 4A state semifinals. Each year since 2010, White Knoll has won three playoff matches only to be tripped up one round short of championship contention.
Beginning with the end in mind, Shick’s first alteration during spring practice was a more hard-nosed approach to physical conditioning.
“I worked really hard with them and got them going good there,” Shick said.
Among his expanded training, Shick required the players to run an eight-minute mile. The players understood the need for the raised physical standards, said Small, an outside hitter.
“We used to just come to workouts in the summer, but with Coach, I feel like we put in a lot more work, physically, over the summer, and we really believed that would make a difference,” she said.
The rigorous preparation “made us stronger and just improved our game,” libero Damaris Collier said.
This season’s start has put the seventh-ranked Timberwolves’ improved fortitude to the test. White Knoll has faced several top-tier teams in non-region competition and tournaments.
At 17-6-2 through September, White Knoll’s losses have come at the hands of Hillcrest, Dorman, Bishop England and region opponent Aiken, the team which has foiled the Timberwolves’ past three semifinal attempts.
“I tried to schedule some of the best teams for them, so that they could learn how to battle with those kinds of teams,” Shick said. “That’s all I can do. Put them in situations that will help them at the end of the season.”
Collier said the training and the tough schedule has changed her team’s attitude, as well.
And, she said, it all will work to help the Timberwolves end the season with a much different experience.
“By the time the playoffs start, we’re going to be even more ready,” she said.