It’s been a transitional season for the Lake City High volleyball team in more ways than one.
First, the Timberwolves welcomed a new coach. Then the new coach discovered he needed to find a setter to get the ball to the team’s new go-to hitter.
The Timberwolves survived the transition.
After Bret Taylor introduced himself as coach and started to learn about his team’s strengths and weaknesses during open gyms in the summer, he determined his team’s most pressing need was a setter.
His setter of the future would likely be a sophomore. But he didn’t want to put the weight of directing a senior-laden starting lineup on her shoulders all at once.
So he asked senior Hilary Ayers, a starter at outside hitter the previous two years, to try setting in a couple of drills.
“He pulled me over to the side and asked, ‘How would you feel about setting?’ ” Ayers said. “I kind of thought he was kidding. I’d never been a setter before.”
Ayers noticed she was the only one laughing. It dawned on her that Taylor was serious.
“I told him I’d do whatever he thought I could do,” Ayers said. “I put my faith in him and hoped it would go well. If anyone can train someone to be a setter, it would be him.”
Taylor has been impressed not only with Ayers’ physical effort but her leadership.
“She made a big sacrifice,” Taylor said. “It was one of the most selfless acts. She was about the team and willing to do whatever I asked her to do. I admire the fact that she put herself second and the team first.”
Now the 5-foot-9 Ayers figures she has more college options. She knew she didn’t have a future at the NCAA Division I level as a hitter, but now that she can do a little bit of everything well, she figures she’ll have more choices on where to play next year.
“She’s not looking so much for the highest level she can play at as she’s looking more for the best fit,” Taylor said.
She carries a 4.2 grade-point average. Her brains coupled with her athleticism will open doors, Taylor said.
“She has a high volleyball IQ,” Taylor said. “I looked for the smartest player on and off the court to try at setter. We needed her leadership and volleyball knowledge in that position.”
Ayers didn’t have to be told more than once who to get the ball to the most. Taylor moved 6-0 senior Britta Forsythe, who started at middle hitter last year, to outside hitter.
Forsythe has averaged a team-leading 15 kills per match. She averaged 10 last year.
“She’s tall, she’s athletic and she has long limbs,” Taylor said. “We’ve counted on her for a lot this year. We knew she was going to have to be our hitting presence going into the season.”
Forsythe hasn’t disappointed. She has improved measurably since making the transition from playing at North Idaho Christian School in Hayden to LC last year.
“She’s athletic enough to play at any level in college,” Taylor said.
Forsythe praises Taylor for having a huge impact on her game in a short amount of time.
“He’s very wise,” Forsythe said. “He’s very encouraging and supportive. His criticism is always constructive. He’s stretched me and made me better.”
An honors student at NICS with a 3.8 g.p.a., Forsythe has enjoyed the move from middle hitter to outside.
“It’s easier for me as an outside hitter to see around the block and see more of the holes better than I could straight on as a middle hitter,” Forsythe said.
Forsythe, with her long arms and respectable vertical leaping ability, can jump within four inches of a basketball rim. Being able to consistently get her hitting elbow well above the net when she swings allows her to put extra velocity on her swings.
Forsythe has nothing but praise for Ayers’ setting this season.
“She’s done so well for where she started,” Forsythe said. “I can’t imagine switching from outside hitter to setter. I couldn’t see myself doing it. It would be too hard. She’s done a great job. She’s given her heart to it.”
Ayers has been thankful to have a hitter of Forsythe’s ability to set.
“She’s got so much athletic ability and uses it to her advantage,” Ayers said. “She’s always there for us. She always delivers.”