A busy Friday might have been an early microcosm of the Janesville Craig volleyball team this season.
The Cougars had won their first three pool-play matches at the Cougar- Viking Classic and had breezed to a 25-13 victory over Edgerton in the two teams’ first game.
But Craig lost the final two games of that match and its final two matches to finish .500 on the day.
Four first- or second-team all-Big Eight Conference performers from a year ago graduated from Craig this past spring, including a couple players—Amanda Carlson and Taylor Salmon—who rewrote much of the Cougars’ record book.
Head coach Blake Budrow has five sophomores and a freshman on his 12-player roster to start the season.
“There will be a lot of new faces out there, a lot of youth,” Budrow said.
“We’ll go through some growing pains, but the growth from now to the end of the season should be quite a bit.”
Senior libero Lauren Glissendrof was an honorable mention all-conference pick a year ago and leads the charge along with fellow seniors Rachel Bonham and Taylor Morgan.
“Lauren is doing a nice job with leadership in the back row and taking charge of our defense,” Budrow said.
Other returning players who have varsity experience are: junior Sophia Vitaoli, a defensive specialist; and sophomores McKaylie Justman and Britten Bertagnoli, a pair of front-row players who will be expected to boost their kill totals at the net.
Sophomore Abby Trapp was the Cougars’ backup setter, behind multi-year standout Taylor Salmon. Junior Julia Masterson will share the setting duties with Trapp.
“We’ll probably run a little 4-2 (system) and a little 5-1 depending on matchups and who is hitting well,” Budrow said.
Other varsity newcomers include: senior Taylor Tompkins; sophomores Kelly Heinzen and Jessa Alderman; and freshman Taia Hodgkinson.
Would-be senior hitter Maddie Grund, who also would have been expected to pick up a bigger role, suffered an injury this summer and is out for the season.
With such a youthful lineup, Budrow accepts that the Cougars—as they were Friday—may be a bit inconsistent early but hopes the group continually progresses throughout the fall.
“We’re still trying to figure out roles early in the season and what will be best for us,” Budrow said. “It’s a young group, but they have a good skill set, are working hard, learning and reacting well to coaching, so it’s been a fun start.”