Published: October 24, 2013
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Kaylah Woodcock entered her junior girls volleyball season at Lackawanna Trail this August a bit uncertain of her status on the team.
As a sophomore with the Lady Lions last season, Woodcock was a part-time player on the junior varsity team, eager to improve but still had a ways to go to earn time with the varsity.
Fast forward a couple of months and now, as the regular season draws to a close, the junior not only finds herself starting as an outside hitter, but has risen the level of her all-around game to the point she never goes to the bench.
Except during timeouts, of course.
"She's playing all six rotations," said Susan Renna, who is in her first year as head coach of the Lady Lions. "Last year, she was playing only on the front row."
The back row, where passing and digging are key components to a team's success, was a place where Woodcock watched, not played, last year on the junior varsity team. That fact alone showed where she needed to get better in order to get on the court more often as a junior.
"I worked on my passing very hard," Woodcock said. "I could feel myself getting a lot better."
She had a lot of work to do, taking advantage of all the court time she could muster for herself in the off season.
"There were open gyms," Woodcock said. "I practiced my passing as much as I could."
As her passing got better, she noticed the rest of her game continued to improve as well. Woodcock didn't know just how much she had improved, so she felt a little trepidation when official practice began for the Lady Lions in August. What ensued was almost a dream come true.
Instead of seeing a player unsure of herself, Renna was delighted to find a confident junior on the court. All the hard work Woodcock had done after her sophomore season had given Renna many more options about where she could put the 5-foot, 8-inch junior.
"She might be our most improved player," Renna said. "During open gyms, she had no approach, her hitting was so-so. Now she's getting kills."
Woodcock was glad to see that all the work she had put into her game had paid off with a startling jump in playing time. The lesson that hard work pays off with results had been ingrained into her head.
"I was surprised. I wasn't expecting to play all over the court," Woodcock said. "I'm very proud of myself."
Any doubts she might have had about her ability are gone.
"I'm glad that she [coach Renna] gave me the chance to play all around the court," Woodcock said. "To go from playing just the front row ... I'm proud of myself."
Not only had Woodcock gotten better with her passing, but the rest of her game had shown marked improvement.
"My hitting has improved. I'm getting more power, and I'm [higher] over the net," Woodcock said. "I was hitting into the net a lot last year. I've got a more controlled shot; that has helped too."
Her mental game has also been sharpened, with Woodcock looking ahead rather than looking back on any mistakes she makes.
"When that happens, I try to focus on the next play," Woodcock said. "When I wasn't as good and I'd mess up, I wouldn't focus on the next play, I'd focus on the mistake."
The end result for Woodcock is that all facets of her game are on the upswing and Renna couldn't be happier with the junior.
"You can see the dynamics on the court. There's no drama with her," Renna said. "She's got a great attitude; I wish all of the girls had her attitude. Not only is she playing, but she is somebody I can rely upon. Her attitude is like that of a captain."
That's high praise indeed for someone who was just trying to make the starting lineup just a few months ago. It shows how far Woodcock has come in such a short period of time.