It’s a new year, with a new approach.
And Cathedral High School girls volleyball coach Dee Dee Gallagher couldn’t be more excited or optimistic about the future as that new year and new approach begins.
“Year 2 is much more relaxing and settled in,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher said that should be a positive for the program in 2018.
The Irish, long an Indiana and national power under former coach/program founder Jean Kesterson, finished 24-11 and lost to Lawrence North in the Class 4A, Section championship match in 2017 – Gallagher’s first season.
They did so with a team in transition, not only moving from the only coach in program history but starting a slew of new players following the graduation of multiple elite players from a team that won back-to-back state championships in 2015 and 2016.
It was a difficult circumstance, and one Gallagher said is now behind the program as it moves into 2018 with a core of young, talented players.
“I feel bad for the seniors who were here last year,” Gallagher said. “They were a lovely group of young ladies, but it was like a transition year. I knew it would be difficult, but I didn’t know it would be that difficult. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s very relaxed now in the gym. Kids always put pressure on themselves, but it’s not that extra pressure in the gym where you’re afraid to make a mistake.
“I’d look up in the rafters and think, ‘Oh my gosh … am I letting her (Kesterson) down? Look at what she built.’ That pressure I put on myself. I wasn’t relaxed like I like to coach. It had nothing to do with her. She’s very supportive and Coach [Rhonda] Low is very supportive. If I needed anything, they helped anyway they could.”
Gallagher said the difference this year is simple and clear.
“It’s just me being more relaxed,” she said. “I wished I could have done it last year for the seniors, but now I’ll definitely do it.”
The 2018 Irish will feature one senior, Rose Meyer, who played under Gallagher on Cathedral’s freshman team before Gallagher moved into the head-coaching role. Aside from Meyer, this year’s team is made up of talented underclassmen that Gallagher said will form the core of the program moving forward.
“It feels like they’re my kids,” Gallagher said. “All of them have already played for me, whether it be on the freshman team or last year on varsity. I’m just very proud to be able to coach these kids.”
And Gallagher’s early outlook for that group?
“I absolutely feel amazing,” she said. “We have a lot better ball control than we had last year. I think that’s maturity for our players. They’ve matured a whole year, playing club, so our ball control is very good. They all have really bonded over the summer.
“Maybe it’s because I’m a little more relaxed, but it’s a very tight-knit group.”
Youth will be the theme for the Irish in 2018. Only three of the team’s players have played in a varsity game. But it’s a roster of players who have been around Cathedral volleyball through camps much of their lives, and it’s a roster Gallagher said is loaded with potential. Among the top players:
*Meyer, a 5-feet-7 outside/defensive setter who Gallagher said is “hands-down one of the top hitters in the state.” Gallagher said Meyer “hits like she’s six-feet tall” and will be the team leader this season. “I don’t see her coming off the court at all,” Gallagher said.
*Junior Anna Trieloff, a middle hitter who played varsity for the Irish last season and who “really improved over the club season.” Gallagher called Trieloff “a great hitter. She just needs to work on her blocking and she’s come back and done a nice job in the club season.”
*Junior Jami Hansen, a defensive setter who projected to be the team’s libero and who Gallagher said is “a very scrappy defender.”
*Sophomore outside hitter Sarah Casper, who Gallagher said is a player with a bright future and who is one of the team’s hardest hitters.
“We have a lot of depth and some great potential,” Gallagher said. “We’re just young. If you look at our roster and see there are five sophomores on there and say, ‘Oh, this is going to be an easy team to beat …’ but they play with a whole lot of heart and pride and they’ve lived and breathed Cathedral Irish for years and years. They love it. They love to be in the gym.
“I’m very optimistic about this group. They’re super young, but they play for one another and they play for Cathedral and I think the future is bright.”