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IAC VOLLEYBALL: FORD SAYS TIOGA STILL 'A WORK IN PROGRESS' AS 2023 SEASON TIPS OFF (2023-09-05)

By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
TIOGA CENTER - The defending Section IV, Class C champion Tioga opens the season tonight at Whitney Point, but longtime volleyball coach Des Ford said the Lady Tigers are still "a work in progress."

"We still don’t have a set rotation, but that’s typical for me," she said. "We have to work every day. It’s a work in progress.

"We have good kids, but every year is different," noted Ford. "I’m always making changes as we play.

"We scrimmage teams, and I try different things," she added. "The other teams are probably using their main kids, but I mix it up. I change my line-up, I try to see what might work."

Ford has a set line-up, but cautions it could change as the year progresses.

"We’ll have kids playing different positions at different times" she said.

Senior Lily Mesler and sophomore RaeAnne Feeko will start at setter, but Mesler could also see time on defense, and senior Joslyn Maciak will be the libero.

Junior Kali Bailey, sophomore Audi Zorn, and senior Layni Whitmore will see the majority of time at middle hitter, with seniors Emily Bidwell and Hailey Powell in the front row, and senior Megan Vance at outside hitter.

Sophomores Lydia Decker and Kendra Noe will be defensive specialists, but could also see time in the front row.

Junior Cristina Earley could see time on right-side, outside, or back-row defense

Ford likes the way her team is gelling.

"I think their cohesiveness is going to be a strength," she said. "They get along well, and they work hard.

"We’ll see if it clicks," Ford aded.

The Lady Tigers graduated four starters from last year’s championship team, but Ford notes that’s common occurrence in high school athletics.

l"It doesn’t really concern me," she said. "It’s my job to coach, whether they’re young, or they’re veterans.

"At this level, it’s my job to coach them, help them improve, and get them where they need to be," she added.

At this point, Ford hasn’t found anything about this team that worries her.

They work hard, they get along, they can serve," she said. "I don’t know that I have a concern. … with the kids individually, or as a team."

Ford isn’t one about predicting wins and losses. She just looks for maximum effort.

"We’ll do OK," she said. "As long as they walk off the court, and know they did the best they could, we’ll be all right — the wins and losses will take care of themselves.

"I just want the girls to go out and use the skills they’ve been working on for years … and bring more passion to the court.

"It’s there, they just have to express it," added Ford. "I’m working on different things with them as individuals. Hopefully, it carries over into life as well."

AROUND THE IAC LARGE SCHOOL DIVISION
With Waverly’s move to the STAC, the IAC has re-shuffled the deck. Instead of going back to three divisions, with a wildcard for a four-team postseason tournament, the IAC has elected to do two divisions — eight teams in the Large School, and seven in the Small School.

Tioga is in Large School Division with Edison, Newark Valley, and Watkins Glen, and IAC North foes Dryden, Lansing, Trumansburg, and Whitney Point.

The top two teams during regular season will play for IAC Large School title. Likewise, for the Small School title.

"We’ve always been competitive in the South with Edison, Newark Valley, Watkins Glen, and Waverly used to be in the mix," said Ford.

"Lansing and Trumansburg have always been the dominant programs in the North," she noted. "They now have to worry about playing us, Edison, Newark Valley, and Watkins Glen twice a year.

"Lansing and Trumansburg are strong programs, so it will help us be better prepared for the postseason," she added.

Ford also notes that Lansing and Whitney Point are Class B schools, and the rest of the division is Class C.

"The way it’s set up, we’ll all see each other in Sectionals, too — if we all qualify," said Ford.

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IN PHOTO: Tioga coach Des Ford instructs Lily Mesler during action last season. … VSR STOCK PHOTO.

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