Gone from last year's squad are seven talented seniors, including much of the Eels' punch at the net with the departed Ashley McCullough and Sarah Kennedy. But credit new head coach Tricia Hall with instilling in the Eels a winning attitude that she brings from her past coaching experience.
Hall, who is the former Tricia Jones, daughter of long-time Eels coach, Keith Jones, spent a year coaching at Cass High School last year and previously worked with the volleyball program at Cowan High School.
Located near the prep volleyball hot bed of Muncie, Cowan High School is perennially a 1A powerhouse on the court and has been in the Final Four the past four seasons. Hall was a part of that and feels that her experience can benefit the Eels.
"I learned a lot from my time at Cowan," said Hall after the opening day of practice on Monday. "Coach Mary Goth was a great mentor for me and I brought a lot of their drills and conditioning ideas with me. Clay City's girls got a taste of winning last year and they liked it. I think we can transfer that success to this season."
With a number of girls that were part of the Eels' softball team that advanced to the regional championship game last year, Clay City has a hunger for victory that is growing stronger each year according to Hall.
"After the season that the softball team had last year, these girls know what it takes to win," she said.
"A lot of these girls have played travel softball and more and more are starting to play volleyball at an earlier age and developing the fundamentals at an earlier age."
Travel volleyball has enriched the skill levels of girls at a younger age and that ability is now beginning to raise the level of play at the high school level.
Incoming freshman Lynsey Higgins played on the Crossroads of America travel team that advanced to the Junior Olympics this summer and finished 19th out of 48 teams.
"I'm impressed with the amount of work she's put in at such an early age," said Hall. "Her fundamentals are really advanced."
Hall also feels that the experience that several of this year's upperclassmen received last year will benefit them this season.
"Kelly McCullough saw some varsity time last year and she's definitely got a high skill level."
The Eels return seniors Angie Camp, Hannah Moore, Mardi Steiner and Emily Reed to the squad. Both Camp and Moore were outside hitters last year with Reed and Steiner in the defensive rotation.
The Eels will have to replace their two skilled setters, Chelsee Gerber and Courtney Dayhuff this year and need to find a middle hitter to replace McCullough who is on the roster at Indiana State.
"Brittney Glass has stepped up a lot for us," said Hall of her 5'11 junior who was a middle hitter for the JV squad
Chelsea Hane is also expected to be an important factor and the Eels will get significant help from players who had a strong JV season in 2006.
Hall has quickly made an impression on her team with scheduled 7-9 a.m. morning practices as well as an evening session to shape her program.
The season will get rolling quickly with a scrimmage versus Shakamak slated for Aug. 9 before their first regular season game at Union on Aug. 14.