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Forest Grove coach wants more mental focus from her team

Midway through her first season as the Forest Grove volleyball coach, Nicole Miles is pleased with the way the Vikings have performed, but she believes that the team can continue to get better.

“It’s going well,” Miles said. “We just need to focus on being disciplined, to get settled in and play how we can play and not get wrapped up in the hype of everything.”

By “hype,” Miles means that often the Forest Grove girls allow their heads to get in the way of their bodies during matches. The Lady Vikings are 2-4 in Pacific Conference play, but Miles says there have been many sets where Forest Grove has blown leads by not showing enough mental fortitude.

“The girls get really nervous sometimes or they just over-think the game too much,” Miles said. “I’m just really trying to get them to take a breath and settle in and play how I know they can play and they know they can play. Sometimes they’re over-thinking it, or the pressure might get to us, or something.

“We’ve been leading in a lot of our sets and we just get into a lull and we can’t snap out of it. That’s what we’ve been working on — trying to stay positive and snap out of the lulls and get back into it and get focused.”

Part of that may simply be growing pains of the team learning to play for a new coach.

“It’s difficult when any coach comes in during their high school career and wants to change things up completely from technique to how they interact with one another to systems that we’re running on the court,” Miles said. “But they’ve done really well in just trusting me as far as being open minded. I have super high expectations of them because I can see what they’re capable of.”

So far this season, Forest Grove has been getting very good defensive play by senior Taylor Schmidt on the backline.

“She runs the back row for us,” Miles said. “She’s been key as far as anchoring our defensive lineup.”

Offensively, the Vikings have been relying on juniors Mary Hutchins and Shelby Turner-Thurman, plus sophomore Briana Hanson.

“Mary and Shelby are big on our offensive line as far as being leaders out on the court no matter what we’re doing,” Miles said. “They’re vocal leaders out there when things get down. And Briana Hanson has come up and proven that she wants to be an offensive threat for us as well.”

Even with a 2-4 record, Miles believes that the Lady Vikings’ goals are still attainable.

“At the end of the day, we all want the same thing — to be competitive and do well in league,” Miles said. “Just bringing us together in that and uniting us has been a small stepping stone and a journey. One of our goals for the season is to finish at .500 so we’re hoping to take down some of the teams who have beaten us in the past.”

If Forest Grove can continue to come together and play well both mentally and physically for an entire match, Miles says that the Vikings can be a force in the Pacific Conference during the second half of the season.

“If they can pull together for a whole set, a whole match, who knows what we can accomplish,” Miles said. “They have so much athletic talent and if they can really settle in, we can make a huge dent in the league.”

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