AMBOY — Let’s face it, in our society we are programmed and expected to win. Watch a TV show or movie nowadays, and ultimately there is a victorious heroine or winning team hoisting the trophy skyward. The old saying goes; ‘no one likes a loser.’
Yet, in any contest there is always a team or individual that comes up short. The question that needs to be asked is what did you learn from it?
Often, on any level of sports, sometimes there can be a painful learning curve as more experienced players get traded, retire, and in high school they graduate leaving underclassman the tough task of competing in actual games against veteran juniors and seniors. This is exactly what is currently going on for the Amboy Girls Volleyball team. For this squad made up of one junior, seven sophomores, and eleven freshman, second year Varsity Head Coach Ashley Dunlap must keep moral high and emphasize the positives despite not too many victories in the win column for now.
“Obviously, losing isn’t fun,” shared Dunlap. “I’m a very upfront person and told my team about realistic expectations. I also feel that we have the upper hand because our girls are getting the experience early of what it takes to play at the varsity level, but also at a disadvantage because we are so young and making freshman mistakes.”
“Last year at this time most of my girls were in grammar school. It’s a big jump,” she continued. “We are taking baby steps; I already see improvement and we are learning from our mistakes. We will weather the storm.”
Dunlop herself, a decorated player was part of the Lakeland High School back-to-back state champions in 2008 and 09, and learned a lot from her legendary coach Kristy Parris, the third all-time winningest high school coach in Illinois history.
“Kristy instilled an attitude of confidence that we could take with us on and off the court,” said Dunlap. “We have a competitive, scrappy group of girls here and along with the coaching staff everyone has bought in to our culture of developing a competitive and successful program.”
After college, Dunlap decided to move to Amboy and started teaching third grade during the day at Central and coaching the varsity after school. Her coaching philosophy is simple, stress the fundamentals of the game.
“Our new girls will learn to be aggressive, along with knowing how to be smart with the ball,” explained Dunlap. “Proper rotation, quicker in the middle and ball control spreading it around the net is so vital, along focusing on what’s next.”
Courtney Ortgiesen, a junior and the only upperclassman on the Lady Clipper’s roster has seen a positive change in the overall attitude of the team thanks to Dunlap’s approach.
“Coach never allows us to get down or think too long about a mistake,” said Ortgiesen. “She’s always striving for us to give our best. Everyone just wants to play hard for her.”
With an eye on the future in order to rebuild and revitalize the program, Dunlap established for the first time ever this year, a fifth and sixth grade girls’ team. Along with the seventh and eighth grade squad the instruction should help ease the players into high school.
“It will take some time, but I like where we are going,” said Dunlap. “In a couple of years, we should have the kinks worked out and should be a sound machine.”
“It’s heartbreaking to walk into our gym and see just one winning volleyball banner from 1980,” Dunlap shared. “Our goal as a coaching staff is to win a title and get the community to invest in our program. We will be a team to watch out for.”