Brooke Hopper enters her first foray into a head coach’s role with a massive rebuild laid at her feet.
The former Parsons assistant coach who now takes the head job this fall inherits a team that won 10 matches last year and lost a sizable senior class that included Nena Taylor. Now the Vikings have just two seniors compared to 12 freshmen making up the entire program.
“We’re extremely young,” Hopper said. “Both seniors are good leaders that are working hard to lead the younger girls. But we have younger girls that want to put in the work. We have 25 girls out, so that speaks volumes to building Parsons girls’ sports.”
With 25 girls out for volleyball, the raw numbers are an uptick from last fall. But the youth dominating the roster is a sign that growing pains lay ahead of the Vikings.
“When you have a lack of experience, that’s such a big part of your team,” Hopper said. “We’re also height challenged this year. We don’t have a lot of tall players. So we’re trying to get a lot of repetitions in with our whole team to build our confidence.”
Hopper, flanked by two new assistant coaches in Tabitha Spriggs and Ashlyn Schwartz, have put a preseason focus on getting their new-look roster indoctrinated into a culture they want installed.
“We have to have the girls buy in,” Hopper said. “Buying in looks like showing up on time, every single day and being disciplined through every single drill. No matter how easy a drill might be, we’re doing it for a reason. And we need girls to lead from the front. It doesn’t just have to be the seniors.”
Arianna Hinman and Alexis Perez are the two seniors that will suit up for Parsons.
Hinman will be a versatile threat that could play all six rotations for the Vikings.
“She’s a powerful hitter,” Hopper said. “She can see a block and put a ball down. She’s also a senior leader that’s reached out to some of the younger girls and made sure they understand their roles.”
Perez will be one of the primary offensive threats for the Vikings.
“She is an outside player that has a really strong serve,” Hopper said. “She shows up very consistently. The younger girls really respect her because they’ve seen her put in the time.”
The Parsons varsity roster also includes two juniors in Ashlyn Brownewell and Jairen Burns plus three sophomores in Isabelle Fuentez, Jamya Kendrick and Morgan Vaughn.
Just one of the 12 freshmen out for volleyball, Kierstyn Houk, will play varsity her first year on campus.
“She’s a dynamic player that puts in extra work,” Hopper said. “Watching her over the summer, she was unbelievable at times. It’s great to see her put in the work to become a great volleyball player.”
Getting 12 total freshmen out for the program, in Hopper’s mind, is already an upward trend.
“It’s extremely encouraging,” Hopper said. “They’re 12 freshmen that work their tails off. They’re showing up and asking for extra work. They’re going into strength and conditioning. That’s a good thing when it comes to building a program.”
Hopper added that she’s experiencing many of the same challenges her young roster is facing in her first year as head coach.
“Some days it’s more difficult than I anticipated,” Hopper said. “But I have an awesome supporting cast in my assistant coaches. There’s more as a head coach you have to worry about — filling out paperwork, scheduling and all that. There’s a lot to figure out when it comes to building a successful team.”
With not much height or power in the front line, Parsons will rely on its ability to dig out balls and force other teams into difficult situations.
“Right now, we’re not looking at other teams,” Hopper said. “We’re looking at what skills we need to perfect. We’ll have to be a smart, defensive team. These girls have to got to gain some confidence. As far as where we want to be, we want the girls to be encouraged by what they accomplished, no matter what that looks like.”
Girls athletics at Parsons nearly across the board are facing a rebuild entering 2019-20. Volleyball will serve as the first litmus test for how that process gets started.
“We’re honest with the girls,” Hopper said. “They see there hasn’t been a lot of consistency in girls sports here. So they’re trying to change that. Us as coaches, we’ll show up every single day. We need the same from them, and we’ve had a great response to that.”