“Come on, kid,” Eagan senior McKenna Melville shouted to a volleyball teammate about to be tested in the approach jump.
“Good job,” Melville said after she touched one of the red horizontal vanes on the Tandem vertical challenger.
Melville, one of the Wildcats’ captains along with fellow seniors Ally Murphy and Anne Wong, was keeping a keen eye on her teammates Monday as they went through jumping, speed and strength testing on the opening day of volleyball practice.
There wasn’t time to look up at their 2016 state championship banner hanging from the school’s gymnasium wall. It marked their third title in the past four years, and seventh in program history.
“We’ve been successful because we work hard,” Murphy said. “We really need everybody working hard to be successful this year. It’s exciting to be back in the gym.”
That is, until you’re in the line to do push-ups.
“I did some push-ups last night, so I was ready,” Wong said with a chuckle. “I think we do push-ups because coach [Kathy Gillen] loves them, and she knows we hate them.”
Wong is trying to follow in the footsteps of two previous captains, Brie Orr a year ago and Callie Schapekahm her freshman season.
“They both were extremely good at making everybody feel part of the team,” Wong said. “It didn’t matter if you were younger, they made you feel like you deserved to be here.”
The only thing missing from the initial practice session of two-a-days was a hug from Orr. She was one of three senior starters who graduated from last year’s squad, and now is a member of the Iowa Hawkeyes.
“She gave me a hug every day,” Gillen said. “It didn’t matter if it was in the classroom or the gym.”
A role that has yet to be fulfilled by this year’s squad.
“We might have been missing a few hugs today, but it’s all good,” said Melville, who committed to Central Florida as a junior. “I’m ready for another amazing experience.”