JEFFERSON — After a fourth-place finish at the Class B state volleyball tournament last year, the Jefferson Panthers got right back to work in the offseason hoping to improve upon that deep postseason run.
“A lot of it is not only how hard our coach has been pushing us, but our work in the offseason,” libero Kayla Rosenbaum said. “It’s not just a one-season thing. We’re all in the clubs in Helena working hard throughout April, May, traveling, building with each other, learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses and how to communicate with that.”
Jefferson has been chasing powerhouses Huntley Project and Red Lodge during the entirety of head coach Mike Majors’ tenure. The summer circuit has allowed Jefferson’s girls to get exposure to some of the state’s better players, preparing them for the speed of better competition.
“In our district, we don’t see a lot of that fast pace as we will at divisional and state,” Rosenbaum said. “So playing throughout the summer and getting out and seeing new teams, having to readjust to them has definitely helped us with learning a new pace and being prepared for that once we get there.”
With such powerful programs to contend with in the division, Majors has left no stone unturned in trying to foster a competitive environment in practices.
“He’s brought in some trainers from the Helena area that work at fitness places around town,” setter Abby Rosenbaum said. “We’ve done aerobics, we’ve done Tabata (high-intensity interval training), just running every single day. We’ve done the athletic test where we go up in the weight room, max out and it’s very competitive. He’s a very competitive person, so we definitely have a lot of competition in the gym.”
That competition has propelled Jefferson to an unbeaten start in conference play and has the Panthers eyeing another trip to the state tournament. The cousin connection of setter Abby Rosenbaum and libero Kayla Rosenbaum has certainly strengthened team chemistry.
“We’re together all the time,” Kayla said. “Throughout school, where we live, we’re in the same neighborhood, we go to the same church, our family holidays are together, so we know each other so well. And you’ve got to like the person if you’re spending that much time together, so it’s been great to be able to bond.”
“We’re really compatible out on the court. We can yell at each other,” Abby laughed. “We work very well together. Her being my libero, it’s awesome the relationship we have.”
“It definitely helps us that we’ve been best friends and known each other our whole lives,” Kayla said. “We have that ability to, I wouldn’t say yell, but to talk to the other person without getting upset or having issues off the court.”