Keauna Vinson has high expectations for her first season as head coach of the East Wake volleyball squad.
“Our goal for this season is to win our conference,” Vinson said.
East Wake (9-11 overall, 8-6 Greater Neuse River 4A in 2013) finished third in the conference under veteran coach Susan Wall a season ago, several games behind Garner and Clayton. Vinson, a former player at East Wake and Barton College, plans to take the team in a totally new direction.
“This year, we have changed everything,” Vinson said. “I’ve changed the way they warm up, I’ve changed the tempo in practice and we are going to make sure we have more perfect passes so we can run a quicker offense.”
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The Warriors had their first practice on Tuesday and Vinson wasted no time installing her up-tempo approach. Everything they worked on was geared toward getting quick sets and quick hits. The setters were instructed to take some hang time off their sets; any free balls were to be attacked for a point.
“We want to speed up the offense,” Vinson said. “Any time we get a good pass, we’re looking to run something quick.”
Along with the exit of coach Wall, East Wake lost six seniors to graduation over the summer, including all four team captains. Still, Vinson is excited about the talent her team is returning, particularly along the front line. She named middle hitter Angel Rizor and outside hitter Haley Glover, both juniors, as players she expects to dominate at the net.
Vinson also spoke highly of Tamira Knuckles, who’s making the leap up to varsity as a sophomore this year.
“She’ll be my setter,” Vinson said of Knuckles. “Her mom has done a great job sending her to camp to prepare her so she can learn all the footwork that comes with setting.”
Finding senior leadership shouldn’t be a problem this season. Last year, as a junior libero, Ciera Williams was one of East Wake’s most exceptional players.
“She’ll be all over the court on defense,” Vinson said.
But Williams does not want her role limited to just defense, as it was a season ago. As a senior with more of her teammates counting on her to excel, she’s looking to expand her duties – even if she’s one of the smallest players on the court.
“She has the mentality to be a great libero,” Vinson said. “But Ciera says she wants to be on the front row – and she’s my shortest player. I told her in order to get on the front row she needs to learn how to set.”
The coach and team are excited about the transition East Wake volleyball is in the process of making. With a sound defense, a quick offense, a knowledgeable coach and several new stars in place, the Warriors have good reason to be optimistic.
“They were excited and ready to run,” Vinson said of Tuesday’s practice. “Every time I went over something, I had everybody’s attention. … I can tell that they’re ready to learn and excited about this upcoming season.”