As a freshman playing on a stacked Seven Lakes team with 11 seniors last season, Casey Batenhorst simply wanted to fit in.
On the court, she didn’t move around too much, letting the veterans occupy whatever space they desired. She would even ask for permission to go for balls, coach Amy Cataline said.
In other words, Batenhorst was nothing like what she showed Tuesday in helping the Spartans sweep Clear Creek 25-22, 25-18, 25-16 to open the new season.
The Spartans’ new setter in taking over for graduated star Morgan Janda, now playing at Sam Houston State, Batenhorst compiled six kills, three digs and 26 assists against the Wildcats.
“She’s faster. She’s confident. She’s making smart decisions. I’m so proud of her,” Cataline said. “She’s come a long way. Last year, she had to learn to compose her jitters. This year, I feel like she doesn’t have any.”
Seven Lakes graduated a lot of high-level talent from last year’s regional quarterfinalist team. If the Spartans are to make the state tournament for the second time in three years, the 6-foot-1 Batenhorst would need to step up to assume a bigger role.
So far, so good.
“Definitely the speed of the game is an adjustment,” Batenhorst said. “I’ve worked really hard to learn the speed of my hitters. I’m having to set my hitters a lot faster than last year because they hit faster and run faster tempos. It’s been tough, but I’m getting there.”
Batenhorst displayed poise that belied her years, effortlessly setting the ball to older sister Ally, arguably the top player in Region III-6A volleyball, senior Gabrielle Collins, and newcomers like junior Mayo Olibale and sophomore Mia Blum.
“My hitters do a good job communicating and tell me where to set it so they can hit around the block or in certain places to different areas,” Batenhorst said. “That’s been great for me.”
Though they never played on the same team before high school, Ally and Casey showed off impeccable chemistry Tuesday. Ally had a game-high 16 kills, many coming off deliveries from Casey.
“She’s really good at hitting line (pinpointing a shot to the out-of-bounds line, where shots are legal if not placed behind it), but only if I push it out all the way,” Batenhorst said of Ally’s favorite spot.
“She’s definitely gotten better hands and better at setting different players,” Ally said of her younger sis. “She knows speeds better. She knows tendencies better. She’s been good.”
Janda was able to expertly run a fast tempo. Batenhorst is capable of providing the same speed, something Cataline has been impressed with.
Cataline said Batenhorst has quick hands and good range, able to deliver the ball from “pin to pin.”
“We’re really capable,” Cataline said. “Now we just need to sync it up and some more time to continue to develop that relationship between setter and hitter. She sets the scheme for what we’re going to do. She’s comfortable and is really owning that role as setter.”