Discoverers head coach Jeri Otten instructs the team before a drill at Thursday’s team camp at Columbus High School.

Columbus High volleyball concluded its four-team camp on Thursday, working on all facets as they build up towards the preseason and season in August.

Discoverers head coach Jeri Otten said they haven’t had open gyms with other team camps happening in June, so this was the first time this summer the team got together.

“I think all things considered we really from day one to day four, especially after league (Wednesday night), we improved a lot just with sheer reps,” Otten said. “That’s what I really wanted out of this week.”

After Wednesday’s summer league, Otten said she wanted to increase reps with the setters and hitting.

“I thought (Thursday) after this last day, we got quite a bit of it and the girls were looking very good,” Otten said. “Our offense was looking a lot better.”

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Discoverers senior Carly Gaedeke passes the ball during a drill Thursday at Columbus High School.

Last season, Columbus finished with a winning record. Its 18 wins were the most the team had since returning to Class A in 2019.

After graduating just four seniors from last year’s group, the team’s expectations have rose with the work beginning this week.

“There’s definitely a chip on our shoulder. This disappointing result of last year,” senior libero Carly Gaedeke said. “You can kind of see it just everybody really has a lot of grit and they work really hard. Everybody enjoys what they’re doing right now, so I just think that helps a lot.”

Gaedeke recorded a team-high 311 digs last season. She’ll play a critical leadership on the court as the lone returning back row player after the graduation of defensive specialist Olivya Thege and setter/DS Jess Larson.

“Last year we had two DS that played a lot for us, so two new ones coming in,” Gaedeke said. “Passing is a lot of confidence so you have to give each other confidence. If you mess up, you just got to get over and keep going.”

Columbus senior Anisten Barnett (left) sets up sophomore Paighton Erb for a kill attempt at Thursday’s team camp.

Anisten Barnett is stepping into the starting setter role and looking to replace Larson’s 809 assists. In 14 sets played last season, Barnett totaled 58 assists.

“I think it’s going well. I’m really approaching it as just getting used to my hitters and getting better before the season,” Barnett said. “Just taking it to get ahead. Just getting used to them and just working on adjusting to what they want and what I can get them.”

Columbus junior Ayla Janssen rises to spike the ball at Thursday’s team camp.

Barnett is looking to build chemistry with her attackers. The Discoverers return 71% of kills. Addi Johnson led the team with 318 kills. Ayla Janssen and Taytum Miller compiled over 100 kills each with 198 and 134, respectively. Paighton Erb emerged on the outside with 69 kills in 46 sets played.

“Just the trust of me getting it to them and them knowing I can get it to them in a good spot,” Barnett said.

Discoverers junior Taytum Miller rises to spike the ball over two blockers at Thursday’s team camp at Columbus High School.

Janssen, Miller and Erb received extensive playing time last season as underclassmen. Janssen and Miller enter their junior seasons while Erb will be a sophomore in the fall.

Otten said she believes the experience and confidence gained from last season will give them an extra boost this summer and into next season.

“Just their overall being aggressive,” Otten said. “They want to go and approach hard and get a kill. That’s exactly what we need.”

Columbus sophomore Paighton Erb spikes the ball during a drill at Thursday’s team camp.

This summer, Otten said, described this summer’s approach compared to the previous as Columbus returned most of its varsity players.

“With returners and just athleticism, we have girls that can do some nice things,” she said. “I can focus on different aspects and tweaks versus let’s really break things down rudimentary.

Columbus senior Kamryn Jaeger digs a serve during a drill at Thursday’s team camp.

Otten said their goal for the rest of the summer is just to figure out the flow of their rotations and build team chemistry.

“Just making it a complete game. Twenty-five points, focus the entire time,” Otten said. “There’s not really a big rollercoaster that happens, which in the game of volleyball is going to happen anyway but if we really raise our lows, that’s going to help us out a ton.”

Sam Ficarro is a sports reporter with The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at [email protected].

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