You have to credit a coach for being candid. While many coaches cringe at the term "rebuilding," Greencastle volleyball coach looks at her lineup and calls it like she sees it.
Her squad graduated four strong seniors in 2007 and returns just one for this year's squad. Top that off with only two juniors and things will not come easily for the Tiger Cubs in the early part of the season.
"Obviously, this is going to be a rebuilding year. I have one senior and two juniors. I'm really happy with the work that they're putting in. The sophomores are really the ones that are going to have to step up."
The coach is expecting big things from her older players, though.
"Brooke Lewis is my returning senior. Brooke plays outside and I expect her to be a team leader, not only on the court but off the court," Lowe said.
"The juniors returning are Jordyn Lewis and Kayla Nobles," the coach continued. "Jordyn played JV/varsity last year, but Kayla played and started varsity last year as a sophomore. She will be a huge factor for us. I think Kayla and Brooke outside for us will be kind of balancing act for us, to keep our nerves and everything in check."
From the sophomore class, the Tiger Cubs have a pair of players who earned varsity letters as freshmen. Mallory Miller and Chelsea Samuels, along with several of their classmates, will certainly be in the mix with their older teammates.
"Mallory Miller is going to have to step in and help fill Kelsey Hennette's shoes (as setter), and she's doing a great job so far in practice. Chelsea Samuels, Hanna Cochran and Braden Amis will be playing middle for us," Lowe said. "Mallory and Chelsea have earned varsity letters, so they are well attuned to what they need to do."
With as many as six sophomores seeing varsity time, one advantage would appear to be having a group that knows one another and plays well together. However, with people splitting time and others playing all JV last year, that may not be the case for this group.
"The JV had a lot of success, however, the sophomores kind of got split up (as freshman), so they really didn't play as much together," the coach said. "I think all of the sophomores are going to play some varsity this year, although a couple of them are going to swing back and forth. I think the freshmen will get some consistency with their own classmates. Hopefully that will work."
The real challenge for any coach, though, is trying to bring along a big group of freshmen. While everyone wants to see the younger kids getting interested in a sport, it sometimes takes a while for them to see what high school is all about.
"We have a big freshman group, and I'm expecting a lot of things from them. However, it's difficult for them understanding the difference in middle school and high school, the expectations and the amount of work they have to put in. So we've spent a lot of time just on those things," Lowe said.
While many of her players don't have as much shared experience as she might like, Lowe thinks her team has come along well during its early season practices.
"The cohesiveness is very good. Everybody is working well together," she said. "It doesn't seem like there are too many intimidating factors, which sometimes happens. I respect the fact that Brooke, as the only senior, is doing a good of including everyone. It doesn't seem like the freshmen are being singled out too much. I feel like they're being welcomed."
With that said, though, the coach remains grounded.
"I think my expectations are very low," Lowe said. "I don't like to lose, and I know a lot of them don't either. I just really don't know what we can and can't do. I don't know that we know how good we can be. I think we'll have a difficult year. It's definitely rebuilding. It's definitely a young group."
In the season opener on Tuesday, the Cubs had their struggles, losing to Northview in three games. However, the season is a long time for a team to find itself. Lowe keeps this in mind and keeps her hopes high.
"I don't think anybody's going to expect much from us. However, I do expect hard work and effort, and I think they will hopefully surprise me, as well as themselves," she concluded.
Greencastle is back in action at 6 p.m. today when it hosts Crawfordsville.