On the Rise

New Head Coach’s Practice Style and Relationship with Girls Improved Their Season

On+the+Rise

Ava Peters and Maddie Reed

As the girls warmed up before practice, then junior Brigid Wentz waited for assistant coach Alex Henton to walk through the doors of the main gym. Wentz was ready to give him the latest random nickname her and the girls came up with. Alexino, a combination of Alex and casino.

Henton was always the one the girls joked with at practices and games. But his new coaching title meant he had to be more focused.

“I’m the head coach now so there’s a different level of authority that needs to be there. It’s important the players have trust there,” Henton said. “That they know I have their best interest in mind as a coach.”

Before Henton, practices weren’t as structured. The girls didn’t spend their two hour practices conditioning and working on individual skills like passing and serving. They repeated the same drills every practice and only conditioned twice a week. 

But with him, the teams spent their two hour practices conditioning, working on individual skills like passing and serving, and at the end, divided their 42 players into the varsity, JV, sophomore and freshmen teams to work on rotations for games.

They got into shape by running hills outside and working on their box jumps in the basement, and defensive players worked on passing while offensive players hit balls in serve and receive lines.

“He’s more serious now because he has the head coaching job,” Bunde said. “He has to focus on what we need to do at practices and have structure since he has all of the responsibility as head coach.”

Henton saw when the rotation wasn’t working well if senior Katie Aliber missed a few passes, and subbed in senior Jenna Thiemann for her. He could tell when communication was lacking on the court, and yelled at the girls to tell each other who had the ball when the other team volleyed it over the net. 

“Last year we had one rotation we stuck with all year even when we struggled. Nothing was ever changed up,” senior Brigid Wentz said. “He saw that and was scared to get in a rut, so we’ve tried six different rotations. He’s not afraid to make a change.”

Even while fixing problems like covering tips and remembering to tell the setter where to place the ball for the hitters to spike, they still mocked Henton’s black and purple monochromatic outfits and laughed when he tried to show off his passing skills while scrimmaging with the girls.

On days after winning a match, the girls and Henton took a break from conditioning and skills. Instead, they played queen of the court, and the girls made fun of Henton every time he did the toe stand from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” when the ball hit outside the line of play.

Whether they were running hills or coming up with their latest nickname for Henton, the girls knew how to get him to laugh — even when he was trying to be serious.