By Dan Truttschel~Sports Correspondent

It’s still early, but longtime Westosha Central girls volleyball coach Charlie Berg has a good feeling about his 2012 squad.

Now it’s up to the girls on the team to confirm those positive thoughts.

Central returns five seniors that advanced to a Division 1 sectional semifinal last year. The Falcons finished third at the Southern Lakes Conference Tournament as well.

Berg said he liked what he saw at a pre-season scrimmage in Burlington last weekend.

“We played well,” he said. “We’re a year older, a year smarter and hopefully, a year better. … I think we’re more athletic this year, we’re deeper, we have more flexibility and we’re more versatile.

“I think we can do a lot more things with our lineup. I’m looking for a lot of good things to come out of this year’s bunch.”

Berg, who is entering his 28th year as a head coach and 33rd overall, said he also feels his team is tougher mentally than what it showed in the sectional loss to Kenosha Tremper.

“We learned some things at the end of last year,” he said. “We weren’t tough enough in tough situations. … I think that year of maturity, another year of club ball and another year of just gaining that confidence is going to be a big factor for our kids this year.”

Seniors on the roster are Lauren Hickson (setter), Linda Flahive (middle blocker), Sarah Horton (defensive specialist), Jackie McDonough (setter-left side) and Shelby Schumaker (defensive specialist).

All five put in a strong off-season effort and will be counted on heavily all year, Berg said.

“We always depend on seniors,” he said. “Those five have come forward and really done a good job.”

Joining that group are juniors Danielle Rampart (left-side), Hailie Hart (defensive specialist), Megan Jehlicka (left side), Ashley Jehlicka (setter-right side), Megan Ziesmann (right side), Taylor Conrad (defensive specialist) and Maria Rasch (middle blocker).

Sophomore Maddie Brown (left side) also is on the roster and continues to recover from a torn knee ligament she suffered last year, Berg said.

Looking at the SLC, the top team to watch again is Burlington, which not only won the league crown but closed 2011 with a WIAA Division 1 state championship.

From there, the race to the top should be a fight to the finish, Berg said.

“Burlington is the team to beat, but I think we’ll be right there with them,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll be in the game with a chance to win the match with the kids we have on our team this year. It should be a really competitive conference.”

Central opened competition Tuesday at the Watertown Invitational Tuesday. The Falcons will travel to the always tough Joust Tournament at Homestead this weekend.

The Falcons’ first SLC match is Thursday, Aug. 30, when they travel to Union Grove to face the Broncos at 6:30 p.m.



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