Alyssa Doucette wandered throughout her home in the early morning hours Monday, eager for the first day of fall practice.
The senior co-captain of the defending champion Eagan girls’ volleyball team has her eyes set on back-to-back championships and the program’s fourth consecutive berth in the Class 3A title game.
“I couldn’t sleep,” said Doucette, a middle blocker committed to Missouri State. “I woke up in the middle of the night multiple times just so excited for it. I woke up, walked around, got a drink, and I laid back down. I just couldn’t sleep.
“I was really anticipating it and I couldn’t wait to get back with the team and get back that chemistry again, same as last year.”
So instead of sleep, the captain drafted a text message to the core group of returning players that read, “Good morning, volleyballers. Let’s get ready to get back in the gym and kick some butt and have a great day.”
Then she remembered it was 2 a.m. and thought none of her teammates would be awake. Once 7 a.m. rolled around, the encouraging message was finally delivered.
Like Doucette, though, much of the talent in Eagan’s lineup couldn’t sleep on the eve of another season with high expectations. Senior co-captain Brie Orr, who is committed to Iowa, and her eighth-grade sister, Kennedi, were both restless throughout the night. Junior co-captain McKenna Melville, who is committed to Central Florida, also battled nerves. Even coach Kathy Gillen registered only about four hours of rest.
Gillen returns all 10 players from last year’s roster and understands what will be expected of her team from the volleyball community. But her own expectations for the group are even higher, she said.
“It has the potential to be one of our top teams. We’ve had some good ones that have come through here, a lot of top players, but there is a lot of talent in this room right now,” said Gillen, who won four state titles leading the program from 1996-2003 and, since returning to the program in 2011, has two more championships. “So if we can get them grounded and channel that talent, we should have a pretty good season.”
About 55 girls showed up early Monday morning eager to prove to Gillen they could fit into team’s strong talented core. The group mostly ran through drills and tested skills during the first two-a-day practice and the next two days will be used to sort through the talent before the teams begin taking shape Thursday.
“I’m nervous because of what the season can hold for us,” Melville said. “I’m excited for what can happen and what will be there for us if we work hard and everything falls into place.”