Recorder file photo Amsterdam's Brittanie Brown returns a shot during a September 2013 match against Gloversville at Amsterdam High School.
Recorder file photo Amsterdam's Cassandra Santiago goes up high for a block attempt during their match against Gloversville last season.
By ADAM SHINDER
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- Veteran Amsterdam High School girls volleyball coach Christine Sherlock understands that her team's move to the Foothills Council might mean something a little different than it will to a lot of other AHS athletic programs.
"The Foothills is gonna be a big step up for us as far as volleyball," Sherlock said at the conclusion of Tuesday morning's practice. "Other sports, maybe not so much so, but the Foothills, top to bottom, is probably the best league in the Section II."
In moving from the Big 10 to the Foothills to start the 2014-15 academic year, Sherlock's Lady Rams are entering a league that, on depth alone, may not be equaled in Section II. Of the eight teams that played in the Foothills a season ago, four of them -- Queensbury in Class A, Gloversville and Johnstown in Class B and Broadalbin-Perth in Class C -- reached sectional finals, with Johnstown winning the Section II title and advancing to the state championship match.
Sherlock admitted that her relatively inexperienced team, which finished 3-9 in the Big 10 in 2013, has a long road ahead of it to compete in its new environment.
"We're rough right now," she said. "We have a lot of work to do with knowing where we are. I have a lot of kids up from JV."
"We're facing a lot, but we're up for it," she added.
The latter is a sentiment echoed by the Lady Rams' two senior leaders, Destinee Smith and Brittanie Brown, both of whom Sherlock said she'll be relying on heavily this season.
"It's so exciting, because it's my senior year," Smith said. "Even though it's the second day, I'm more excited for the season than I could ever be."
"Even though we're in the Foothills now, which is much harder than the Big 10, I'm still so excited to play," Brown added.
Brown and Smith will fill the void left by the graduation of Cassidy Arocho, who as an honorable mention selection was Amsterdam's lone representative on the 2013 Big 10 all-star team.
However, what the Lady Rams lack in overall varsity experience, they do make up for quite a bit in height -- an attribute that Sherlock hasn't been able to boast about on her Amsterdam teams for several years.
"I have more height than I've had in the past, all the way around," Sherlock said. "I've always had that one or two that were pretty big kids, but I think our size is a little better this year."
Right now, Sherlock said, the key is to get six players on the court functioning as a cohesive unit before the regular season opens Sept. 2 with a home match against former Big 10 foe Schenectady -- with the Lady Rams' first Foothills contest, a road match against Broadalbin-Perth, following the next day.
"I'm feeling pretty good about our hitting. We're really, at this point, still evolving some setters, (and we're working on) knowing where we are on the court and just putting it all together," she said.
While Sherlock knows the Lady Rams may take some bumps and bruises along the way, she's hopeful the team can rise to the level of its formidable competition as the season progresses.
"I've been around a long time, I know what we're facing going into those gyms," she said. "We've got a lot of work to do. We may take it on the chin this year, but I think they'll rise to the occasion."
Funnily enough, that's exactly what her players are planning on.
"It'll make us a better team," Smith said. "It won't make us any worse. There's only going up from here. Having better competition, being in those tougher situations will definitely make us advance."
"We're gonna have something for them when the time comes," Brown added. "Something they're not expecting."
Contact ADAM SHINDER at firstname.lastname@example.org