Sherry Schulzke is no stranger to coaching senior volleyball at Notre Dame.
But there is a slight difference as the veteran coach returns to the coaching ranks after a year off.
Instead of directing the senior girls’ squad, Schulzke is on the bench for the senior boys’ team.
“There’s certainly a difference between the two (teams) as blocking is a bigger factor in the boys’ game and the reaction speed is quicker, but there’s also a lot in comment,” said Schulzke.
“Of course I’m also the shortest one on the team, which is every coach’s dream,” she added with a laugh.
But Schulzke, who directed the Cougars girls’ team to the zone championship in 2007, has coached boys before, directing the Kings Volleyball Club’s U18 squad during the summer.
“That helped, plus the guys are great to work with,” she said.
Schulzke also has a great deal of talent.
The Cougars have yet to lose a match this season, having won both the Red Deer Classic and the University of Calgary tournaments and are ranked No. 3 in the province in the latest 4A rankings, which were released Thursday.
Schulzke has only four returnees, but 11 of the 12 players are in Grade 12. Only six-foot-six middle blocker John Goranson is in Grade 11.
Goranson is one of eight players who moved up from last year’s JV program.
The four veterans are six-foot-two right side David Kranenborg, six-foot power hitter Dylan Goranson, six-foot-three setter Mark Willms and six-foot-five middle Trent Schmidt, who is team captain.
Geoff Trentham is the other setter while others up from the JV program are power hitter Carson Kallis, who is one of the premier junior golfers in the country, power/middle Kendal Schmidt, right side Tim Finnigan, defensive specialist Logan Capicio, power hitter Grady Mawer and power hitter Brendan Lehman.
“We have a lot of depth, which allows me to use the guys off the bench and not lose anything,” said Schulzke. “The guys also work well together and they want to push hard to make sure we make the provincials.”
The Cougars play in the Spruce Grove tournament this weekend with the annual Notre Dame Cougar Classic, Oct. 16-17.
The girls’ edition of the Cougars are ranked No. 6 in the province, although head coach Chris Wandler says that means little at this time of the year.
“Really I could care less about the rankings right now,” he said. “It’ll mean more by the end of the season.”
What the rankings do mean is that the Cougars have one of the top teams in the province with the potential to be even better than last year when they captured bronze at the provincials.
“We definitely have the potential to be a better team,” agreed Wandler. “We have experience and the No. 2 setter in the province in Kirsten Sorensen who is definitely our leader.”
The Cougars have only four veterans, but three of them have Team Alberta experience.
Outstanding power hitter Morgan Hadden was on the U16 team with Sorensen on the U17 squad and power hitter Makenzie Quinn played U18.
“They all learned a tremendous amount over the summer and came back with advanced skills. That certainly benefits the team,” added Wandler.
The only veteran not to play provincially is right side Taylor Holland.
Seven of the other eight players played with the JV program with middle Megan Schmidt in Grade 10.
The others are middles Michelle Novotney, Ceanna Fiddler and Becca Christensen, libero Danielle Harder, libero-defensive specialist Lindsay Brausen, power hitter Jenna Ronnie and setter Chelsea Fraser.
The Cougars faced the Lacombe Rams in league play Thursday and recorded a 25-19, 25-21, 25-17 victory.