November 22, 2008


Purple Tigers set to open up season with new coach

TigersBob Ellis/staff photographer
Katie Owens is one of seven returning players for Cortland High and new head coach Cheri Olson.

Staff Writer

Things will be different this winter for the Cortland High volleyball team, which opens the season Monday when it visits Homer Central for a non-league match.
For one thing, Mary Lou Bordwell won’t be on the sidelines for the Purple Tigers, having retired in June after coaching the Purple Tigers for 25 years and 336 victories, including nine league championships and a Section 3 Class B title.
Former CHS and Rutgers University standout Cheri (Drake) Olson, who coached the CHS modified squad, takes over the reins of the varsity, which went 2-13 in the OHSL Freedom Division and 2-14 overall last season.
“This is going to be a building year for us,” Olson said. “For more than half the team who had Mary Lou last year, many things that we are doing in practice are different.”
Seven of the 13 players on Coach Olson’s rosters are returning to varsity play.
“They are learning a new defense and a new offense with me. Some people are playing new positions,” Olson added. “For example, I’m training (junior) Sarah Curtis, a middle hitter last year, to be our setter. Our opponents are going to see a whole new team. I hope we can use this to our advantage.”
Other veterans on this winter’s squad are seniors Chelsea Tollner (outside hitter), Hannah Dovi (right side/middle hitter), Nicole Wageck (outside hitter), Caila Clayton (setter) and Katie Owens (outside hitter) and junior middle hitter Lisa Dovi, Hannah’s sister.
The newcomers are juniors Keri Brownrigg (setter/defensive specialist), Danielle Payne (right side/middle hitter), Josie Roberts (outside hitter) and sophomores Kelly Knauerhase (middle hitter), Amanda Shelley (libero) and Kaylee Gebhardt (middle hitter).
Lost to graduation were setters Amanda Cheetham and Rachel Pisa and outside hitters Alissa Claiser and Lisa Frare.
“One of our team strengths is that the girls are working very hard for me,” Olson said. “They truly want to be better volleyball players and are improving every day. It seems evident during practice that they not only have respect for me, but each other. That is fabulous for team chemistry on and off the court.
“The seniors on the team all had me as a coach in eighth grade so they know what to expect, which is a huge help in transitioning as a new coach.
“One of our team goals is to have a winning season. With a new coach, a year or two of transition is often unavoidable. I think that if the girls keep working as hard as they are that we can overcome this sooner rather than later. It is really exciting to be a part of, and I know that win or lose this season is going to be a positive one for all of us.”
Noting that replacing Bordwell “has been stressful and wonderful at the same time,” Olson said: “There are a lot of little things that varsity coaches are responsible for that I am learning as I go along. I know that I’m extremely lucky that Mary Lou has been so awesome. Every couple of weeks I call her up with my questions, and we gab about the team and things that are going on.
“As far as the volleyball aspect is concerned, that’s my element. I coached our modified team for four years in all. In between, I coached the JV boys at Central Square for a year. Good players don’t necessarily make good coaches, but I know the game and am dedicated to my girls. If we keep going in the direction we have been, we’ll be successful with or without a winning season.”