Pine River volleyball team preparing for the season

LEROY — Pine River volleyball coach Jana Dennis realizes the official start of the practice season is approaching.

Last week, the players worked a youth camp at the high school gym,

“We had roughly 30 kids,” Dennis said, noting that the age range was for incoming third graders through incoming freshmen. “We went incoming third through sixth, in a group, and seventh, eighth and ninth in another group.”

Basic skills were emphasized in the younger group.

“It was proper coordination of hand placement for passing, and real basic, keeping it fun for them,” Dennis said. “Some of them pick it up quite fast. For some of them it takes awhile. There’s a lot of parts to think of when it comes to volleyball.

“Most of these guys don’t get this during gym class. Most of the kids have come here previous years. We now have a fifth and sixth-grade program. It’s for a couple of months. We got to a few tournaments. It’s not considered AAU.”

The Highland Conference has middle school volleyball, Dennis noted.

“Some of our fifth and sixth graders have had some experience,” she said.

The varsity team has had open gyms during the summer.

“We went to a scrimmage this past week in Kingsley,” Dennis said. “We have (varsity and JV) team camp here (this week). We’re bringing in some of the Inside Out AAU program coaches and a couple of college volleyball players. Mornings, we’re working on individual skills. Afternoon will be team concepts. We’ll work a lot on defense.

“Usually we go away for team camp but that school isn’t having one this year. We decided to keep people home. We camp out after our first night. We’ll do some team building.”

That will wrap it up for the summer. Just 10 days after the first practice in August, Pine River plays at Traverse City Central in a tournament.

“This is necessary to get the girls back into the gym and really work on their individual skills,” Dennis said. “It’s a little bit of an adjustment coming from JV to varsity. We do a few things different.

“A lot of my varsity girls are playing beach volleyball.”