Carrie Berry watched from the sideline as Evergreen Park’s varsity and sophomore volleyball teams went through a series of drills together. After two weeks of training, the Mustangs annual summer volleyball camp was coming to a close.
But it was far from just another preseason training camp for Berry, who is entering her 12th season as Evergreen Park’s head coach. Things were different from when she first led the varsity team.
“Back in the old days, I used to be able to use camp almost as an incentive to try out, but now my numbers hurt me a little bit,” Berry said. “I used to have a ton of club players and kids that were playing year-round and that’s not happening now.”
The slow change in the quantity and type of players has forced Berry to alter her approach at camp. Fundamentals of individual play are emphasized more than the strategy and sets involved with team play.
“Camp wasn’t getting back into the swing of things and footwork and all the basics,” Berry said. “It was getting right into the nitty-gritty of team ball, whereas now I have to use camp as a refresher for the first couple days.”
Still, the changes around Evergreen Park’s program haven’t stopped the team from having success as the Mustangs have won two straight regional championships.
Led by graduated seniors Erin Crane and Emma Point, Evergreen Park played South Suburban League rival and eventual sectional champion Oak Forest to a tough three-set loss in the sectional semifinals last year.
“Last season was a lot of fun,” rising senior Sam Rule said. “We were really disciplined last year.”
The absence of Point and Crane–who Rule described as a “beast” on the volleyball court–leaves Rule as one of three seniors who will lead Evergreen Park moving forward. She was the starting setter for the Mustangs last year and was named to the all-conference team.
And Berry wasn’t shy about the high expectations she has for Rule.
“I’m counting on her for not only her senior leadership, but also her setter leadership,” Berry said. “The setter is comparable to a quarterback of a team.”
Rule's role as a leader started during camp. As the setter, she focused on learning the positions and tendencies of the team’s newcomers. Rule noted that being familiar with how each person passes will allow her to run the offense much smoother.
“I love being a role model, the setter’s someone to look up to and I love that,” Rule said. “To be able to know how practice should be run, if one of the coaches isn’t there, then I would take over.”
With camp finished, Evergreen Park heads into a month-long summer league that runs through July. Then, it’s right into the regular season with the Mustangs’ first match on Aug. 10.
Even with a relatively young team, Berry says she thinks this team is capable of putting up similar results as last year’s team when the Mustangs finished at 15-15. She’s encouraged by the potential of junior outside hitter Megan Beckow and senior middle Patrice Silas.
And while there were certainly frustrating moments–a lack of vocal communication or people out of position--during Evergreen Park’s two-week camp, Berry says it was successful nonetheless.
“I know now what we need to work on to get to where we need to be.”