Last season, a young Cape Henlopen volleyball squad made the DIAA tournament, their third straight playoff berth. The Lady Vikings enter a new season with the majority of the team intact and their sights set high.
“There’s been a different feeling in the gym compared to previous years,” said Cape Henlopen head coach Tyler Coupe. “I think we have a variety of potential talent that hasn’t been fully tapped yet. It’s exciting to see it when it all does come together, it’s now our job as coaches to prepare the girls to be able to execute our plan consistently.”
With nine players back, there’s reason to be excited about the team’s chances.
“They show a lot of promise and understanding, but they’re still physically growing into their bodies along with still learning how to become leaders themselves,” said Coupe. “Our three seniors have done a great job in pushing our team and holding each other accountable.”
When it comes to leadership, Coupe says several girls have taken the reins so far.
“I think one of the most obvious is Mikiyah Ennals, she’s our lone senior returning that has playing time experience,” Coupe said. “She not only is one of the most physical players on our team, she has evolved herself into one of the most vocal as well. In drills, she’s constantly pushing her teammates whether she’s directly involved in the drill or not. She communicates in rallies as well from the sidelines to her teammates about what cues and spots they need to hit.”
Coupe says the team has also seen promising leadership from seniors Abby Bucklin and Mackenzie Parker, along with junior Abby Derrickson.
“[Abby and Mackenzie] both continue to push their teammates and do their best to lead by example,” Coupe said. “Abby has also been a steady, calming force for the girls. She arrives early and demonstrates a great understanding of how to push everyone further past their perceived limits.”
Knowing this may be a pivotal season, they’ve challenged themselves from the first day of camp.
Even before the games started to count, the Lady Vikings learned a lot about themselves and where they need to go to be a contender, thanks to a scrimmage play day against some of the state’s best including Padua Academy and defending state champion Ursuline Academy.
“It was an opportunity for us to see what top tier talent in the state looks like,” Coupe said. “We certainly took our shots that weekend and we’re exposed to what our current weaknesses are I think our girls remained extremely positive throughout.”
Matching up against elite talent gave Cape the chance to exam their strategies and polish their game ahead of the regular season.
“We talk all the time about controlling our side of the net only,” Coupe said. “We’re aware that other teams are going to earn their points and are going to have their big swings, but it’s how we respond and how we perform the next point that will shape our success.”
“We preach a lot about controlling the first touch, whether it be serving or serve receive and our serving has come a long way, but our reception still need a lot of work.”
While the Lady Vikings may not be at the level of the Paduas or Ursulines yet, being exposed to those teams will only help the program’s growth.
“It’s fun to get beat up sometimes because it motivates you that much more to come back in the gym and work harder to where you can do the beating up,” Coupe said. “It was a great day overall and I think it’s promising for our program to have such talented teams make the trip down.
“It shows the teams up north are seeing the work the Henlopen Conference is putting in as we
continue to grow and prove we can be a volleyball power conference too.”