NAPLES — After spending four years tirelessly working to establish a consistent program, Daniel Selvey saw his Lely High volleyball team turn a corner last season.
The Trojans won their first district championship last year and followed up with the team’s first regional victory. To top it off, Lely was the last area team standing in the playoffs, making a deeper run than Collier County stalwarts Barron Collier and Naples.
Entering his fifth season, Selvey thinks he’s finally built a program that can sustain success year in and year out. Selvey’s system will be tested this season as the Trojans hope to repeat as district champs despite returning just two starters.
“It’s a very different style team,” Selvey said, “but one that has potential to be even better (than last year) in the end.”
Lely’s record-setting season in 2011 was predicated on offense, led by three 5-foot-11 front-liners. Those towering attackers are gone, along with two other key seniors, and the Trojans have just three players on this year’s roster taller than 5-8.
With less size and a lack of experience — Lely has five sophomore and two freshmen on its 14-player roster — the Trojans have tweaked their approach. This year Selvey said his team will focus on ball control and defense rather than the powerful offense it had last year.
“We had such a different team last year, and we’re focusing on such different things this year,” said senior outside hitter Mary Gibler, “but we have a system that I think will work. We’re lucky because we have so many new girls that haven’t had to make the transition (from last year’s style).”
Gibler is one of the two returning starters, along with senior setter Katie Roche. Despite being listed at 5-6, Gibler was one of the area’s best attackers as a junior. She led the team in kills and aces last season and was named the Daily News Player of the Year.
Lely has increased its win total each season under Selvey, capped by last year’s 19-8 record. The Trojans are confident they can win another title in Class 5A-District 14, where they were undefeated last year, and get to the regional championship game.
The Trojans gained valuable experience from last year’s run, which ended in the regional semifinals. The older players are taking those postseason lessons and passing them down to the new crop of players, all while trying to jell as a team.
“The new girls work well together,” said junior middle hitter Sam Howard. “We’re focused on our goals, but we’re still having fun.”