BILLINGS – The Battlin’ Bears volleyball team is hitting the ground running.
“I was surprised to see how well everyone worked together without our seniors from last year,” said Rocky Mountain College senior hitter Hailey Copinga.
“It’s so fun to play with them. We click well, we have a lot of chemistry,” added senior libero Ruby Kallenbach.
That’s especially true with setter Natalie Hilderman, who’s coming off Frontier Conference freshman of the year honors.
“It’s very fortunate that we have our setter as a second-year setter,” head coach Laurie Kelly said. “Last year was a little scary, because, of course, Natalie is a great setter, but she still has to learn the system in college. So this year, we’re a step ahead.”
“She knows all our sets, she knows most of our hitters, and it’s been awesome to start running plays right away,” added Copinga, who is involved in just about every play.
“Shes an all-American kid who’s been in our program since she was a freshman,” Kelly said of her star right-side hitter. “We like those four-year kids. She can do it all.”
“I’ve been thrown into every position, so I’m used to it, and I like it,” Copinga said of her multi-positional game. “I like having that responsibility of covering everything. I think it’s awesome.”
As usual, she and the rest of the team will be put to the test right away. Rocky plays three preseason tournaments before conference this year, with eight opponents ranked in last year’s top 20.
“I love it. It shows us our strengths, it shows us our weaknesses,” Kallenbach said. “Obviously, it shows us our potential, too.”
“I think it’s great that Coach Kelly trusts us enough to put us in that position,” added Copinga. “That she knows that we’re good enough to play with those big teams.”
“It’s the only way I go,” Kelly said. “Let’s play No. 4 and No. 6 in the nation our first two games. The only way in volleyball with 240 teams that we can get into top 25 is to play the top 25. I want to play the best, and when raters are talking about Rocky Mountain College, they’re saying Rocky’s always tough.”
The Bears open the season at the Hope International University Summer Slam tournament Aug. 15 against Westmont College.