By Todd Newville
The Newcastle Pacer
Karin Moore spent the past 16 years at Norman North High School before becoming the new head coach for the Newcastle Racers’ volleyball team. A transplant from Indiana, Moore graduated from Indiana University and is a Hoosier at heart.
“I was at Norman North for 16 years and I graduated from Indiana before that,” Moore said. “I played volleyball on the collegiate club-level team but nothing as intense as the varsity level. I’m really excited for a small-town experience and to be in the school district.
“I’ll be sending my oldest child to the ECC (Early Childhood Center) next year. Everybody has been extremely nice and helpful. My coaches are some of the hardest working coaches I have ever seen. They do so much for the team. The transition has been pretty smooth. Now, it’s just trying to find that balance between getting things ready with my family and coaching – and my room.”
Indeed, it has been a whirlwind of a summer for Moore; she hasn’t even been able to deck out her volleyball office – let alone settle in as the Newcastle volleyball program’s newest head coach. She replaces Bailey Wagner.
The sport of volleyball is an interesting one. With six players on each side of the net, they rotate throughout the game. A player on one of the teams begins a “rally” by serving the ball (tossing or releasing it and then hitting it with a hand or arm) from behind the back boundary line of the court, over the net, and into the receiving team’s half of the court.
The receiving team must not let the ball be grounded within their court. The team may touch the ball up to three times but individual players may not touch the ball twice consecutively. Typically, the first two touches are used to set up for an “attack” or an attempt to direct the ball back over the net in such a way that the serving team is unable to prevent it from being grounded in their court.
The rally continues (with each team allowed as many as three consecutive touches) until either a team makes a “kill” (grounding the ball on the opponent’s half of the court and winning the rally) or a team commits a fault and loses the rally. The team that wins the rally is awarded a point, and serves the ball to start the next rally.
A few of the most common faults include: 1.) causing the ball to touch the ground or floor outside the opponents’ court or without first passing over the net; 2.) catching and throwing the ball; 3.) double hitting (two consecutive contacts with the ball made by the same player); 4.) four consecutive contacts with the ball made by the same team; 5.) a net foul (touching the net during play); and 6.) a foot fault (the foot crosses over the boundary line when serving.)
When the ball contacts the floor within the court boundaries or an error is made, the team that did not make the error is awarded a point, whether they served the ball or not. If the ball hits the line, the ball is counted as in. The team that won the point serves for the next point. If the team that won the point served in the previous point, the same player serves again.
If the team that won the point did not serve the previous point, the players of the serving team rotate their position on the court in a clockwise manner. The game continues, with the first team to score 25 points by a two-point margin awarded the set. Matches are best-of-five sets and the fifth set, if necessary, is usually played to 15 points; high schools sometimes play best-of-three to 25.
“The left front of the court is where you’re outside hitter is,” Moore explained. “In the middle of the ‘attack zone’ is your middle blocker. The right front side could be your right-front attacker or your setter, depending on where they are in the rotation. The right back of the court (in the defense zone) is where you’ll have your defensive specialist – or it could be your setter depending on the game situation. The middle back is a back row defensive specialist as is the left back.
“Those players who play in the front row as offensive players can play in the back row as defensive players. You can attack the ball behind the 10-foot line and it’s still an offensive attack. An attack is a spike. You can still do that from the back row as long as you don’t step on or in front of the 10-foot line if you’re on the back row. You can still spike the ball from the back row. It’s illegal if you step on or in front of the line if you’re a back row player and attack the ball above the plane (top) of the net.”
There is a special position in volleyball called the “libero.” That player is a back row specialist who is allowed to enter or exit the game without substitution request. They can replace any player on the court but most often replaces the middle blockers. Since playing on the back row, a libero needs to have the best passing and defensive skills on the team.
“The ‘libero’ is an all-time defensive specialist,” Moore said. “They run the defense whereas the center (middle blocker) runs the offense and is like the quarterback of the team. For example, the libero can go in for your middle-front player when that player goes to the back row. As the players rotate, there are unlimited substitutions. Left back defensive players might be faster and quicker and can possibly pick up the tips in front of the 10-foot line from the other team.
“Middle back players are really strong at digging balls that are the deeper balls. When you rotate, what happens is we serve the ball, for example. The ball goes over the net and we play it out. The other team then serves the ball and we play it out and win the point. Now, we rotate clockwise. The right back goes to middle back, the middle back goes to left back, the left back goes to left front, the left front goes to middle front, and right front goes to right back.
“Everybody serves and once you’re in the right back, you are now the server unless you are substituted out for someone else. Now, you’ll see the players go to their base positions on the court until they see where the ball is set to. They move into defensive positions based on the opponents’ attack. We don’t want to have a bunch of crowding in the middle of the court for balls. That’s where we learn our court responsibilities based on our defensive positioning.”
Volleyball is a sport that gradually becomes specialized as the players get older, according to Moore. “When the players are younger and playing in middle school, we teach them all the positions and we don’t try to specialize at that point in time. But, when they are older on the varsity level, we start seeing where their strengths are and you’ll have players who are better on the back of the court.”
Six seniors are on the Racer roster: Aubrie Sanders, Courtney Walker, Ellie Davidson, Ivanna Covarrubias, Taylor Combs, and Jessica Pinkston. There are five juniors: Brittany Freeman, Emily Coyne, Hannah Rouse, Kennedie Roberts, and Maddy North. Austyn Pine and Jordan Ashley are sophomores while Hudsyn Mack is the lone freshman on the squad.
The assistant coaches for Moore are Jennifer Sanders and Kendal Sacchieri. Moore’s husband, Taylor, is a Farmers’ Insurance agent. They have three children: Jacelyn (4), Easton (2), and Berkeley (5 months.) Moore teaches psychology, government, and economics.
Right now, Moore is excited about her team’s overall abilities. No one stands out at the moment; every player looks capable of handling their position and each player’s winning attitude is apparent to Moore.
“To be honest, right now I don’t know if there is one standout position or player,” Moore said. “There are some defensive players who step up and surprise me at one practice. Then, another player might step up and surprise me in another practice. There are some really great offensive players who have surprised me. That’s the great thing that I like about this team.
“There’s not one or two or just three standouts. The whole team pretty much stands out together. When someone is playing a little weaker than usual, someone else steps up. I see that happening with this particular team.”
Could a Class 4A volleyball state championship be in the works for the Racers in 2017?
“I think by looking at this team right now, they have the caliber to go to the state tournament and that is what I’m anticipating,” Moore said. “Our goal is to host a regional and make it to state – and win it.”