Volleyball: Holy Family out to continue winning tradition under Winther

Junior Claudia Pena is one of several players who should give Holy Family volleyball a formidable front line.

BROOMFIELD — When it comes to volleyball tradition Bryan Winther seems an unusual standard bearer for Holy Family. But looks can be very deceiving.

There are few in the Tigers’ volleyball family that had a longer and more intimate association with the team than the first year coach. Winther’s past year as an assistant with the program is far from his first experience with the perennial Class 3A power.

Outside his recent stint in college, Winther has helped the team wrack up kills and wins since he was a student at Holy Family.

“Seeing how far this program has come since then is incredible,” he said. “Now, Holy Family is an elite program. It is my responsibility to keep the team’s upward trend and take it to the next level.”

Winther takes the Tigers’ reins from long-time coach Trisha Kroll, who stepped down last fall after 10 years with the program. Kroll had an impressive run, finishing her career by taking Holy Family to state multiple times, including one semifinals appearance.

Having worked with Kroll for a number of years, Winther brings in a similar coaching style and expectations. But his players have noticed some differences in how their new coach approaches the game.

“Bryan tells it like it is,” hitter Blake Hranicka said. “If we’re messing up, he’ll tell us we’re messing up. If we’re doing great, he’ll tell us we’re doing great.”

Getting his team acclimated to his coaching idiosyncrasies has dominated much of Winther’s preseason work. But the coach has not turned a blind eye to the personnel and tactical challenges of the season. Both of which revolve around a void left by graduation.

Kassy Johannsen and Mary Franz were among the most feared attackers in all of Class 3A. Their absence has the potential to change how the Tigers approach the season.

“They recorded maybe around 50 to 60 percent of our kills,” Winther said. “But we have a bunch of young, scrappy girls fighting to take over their spots.”

The coach expects new attackers to develop over the course of the season and a number of girls filling offensive roles. But initially, Winther foresees two players making their presence felt at the net — Hranicka and Claudia Pena.

Even with the size and aggressiveness the middle hitters lend to Holy Family, Winther is not putting all his eggs into one basket. The coach is hedging his bets by employing a more defensive system, to milk the most out of a deep and talented back line.

“It’s going to be consistently strong, consistently scrappy and always giving us a chance to keep the ball in play,” Winther said.

The Tigers believe they have their ducks in a row in keeping the program among the best. But while Holy Family is optimistic, its players have heard from the doubters about the team’s chances of success in the face of new coaches and players.

“A lot of people are asking if we are even a team this year,” Hranicka said. “And we’re more than ready to go out and show them, yes, we are a team.”

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