Around the Block: Jenkins Must Find Way to Get Around St. Thomas Aquinas' Height
Tue. November 13, 2012 at 2:00 a.m. | By Solange Reyner
GEORGE JENKINS' BRIE GILLIAM and the rest of the Eagles will face St. Thomas Aquinas at 4 p.m. today in the Class 7A volleyball semifinals in Kissimmee. (Photo by SCOTT WHEELER | THE LEDGER )
By SOLANGE REYNER
LAKELAND | To prepare for its state semifinal match against St. Thomas Aquinas today, George Jenkins' girls volleyball coach Lisa Bickerton pulled out "The Blocker" during practice Monday.
The piece of equipment is a 2 by 3-foot wide aluminum frame padded with seven rows of thick blue foam. It looks like a fence of doom for hitters and stands on an aluminum pole that adjusts to heights up to 11 feet.
It's used to help teams work on their defense because normally, hitters can't get the ball past it on kill attempts.
"It's evil," senior outside hitter Kayla Monsanto said Monday.
But it could pay dividends against St. Thomas, a team with at least three six-foot-plus athletes.
"They have a lot of big girls at the net," Monsanto said.
That includes sophomore Nikki Lyons (6-foot-1), senior Brooke Lyons (6-foot-3) and sophomore Kimeko Bennett (6-foot). Bennett has 26 blocks this season and Lyons has 35.
But Jenkins has been using a bevy of hitters to get this deep into the post season, the furthest the Eagles have been in 16 years. Junior Kaitlin Boyd, the tallest athlete on Jenkins' squad at 5-foot-11, has 220 kills, followed by seniors Erin Wibert (221) and Nikki McKown (211) and Monsanto (198).
"We don't have any six footers but our girls have been hitting the ball well down the stretch," Bickerton said.
Monday was proof.
"We were using the blocker to practice covering on defense and the girls kept hitting around it, placing it well," Bickerton said.
So she had to get in to make them work a little more.
"Now I'm sore," she said.
That's not to say the consistency has been there throughout the playoffs.
"Finishing is a big thing for us because we haven't been doing that all too well. Often when we get to 20 and we're up we take a break," senior setter Amanda Thiele said.
Bickerton doesn't want that to happen today.
"We have got to be on," Bickerton said. "I am asking for perfection."
And her girls will likely be asking for "The Blocker' again if Jenkins (26-3) advances to the state finals.
"It's not that evil," Bickerton said.
[ Solange Reyner may be reached at 863-802-7526 or email@example.com ]