New coach, same mantra

Irwin, AC/GC take aim at conference title
To an outsider, 2018 may look like a year of transition. 
A new coach and a sizable hole left by a pair of graduated seniors usually would signify a rebuild. 
But take a stroll through the AC/GC gym, pour into the stats and you’re more than likely going to see sky-high optimism. 
Fifteen wins in three of the last four seasons - six winning records in seven years - with a high-water mark of 23 wins and a state tourney berth in 2013 = warrants confidence. 
New Charger head coach Trevor Irwin is thrilled to take over a blossoming program, complete with his fair share of weapons at the ready. That winning tradition is what has enthralled Irwin the most, and encouraged him to make the leap from junior varsity. 
He hopes to take that talent and use it as a measuring stick for all volleyball athletes throughout the school. The Chargers can become a volleyball hot bed. 
“(I’m excited to) develop the program as a whole,” the coach said. “Looking at, of course, the success at the high school level, but also at the junior high and elementary levels. Connecting it all together so it’s a smooth process and we can be known as a successful volleyball program for years to come.”
Irwin grew up in Early on the northern tip of Sac County, which is now part of Ridge View High School. He gradated from Iowa State University with a degree in elementary education, which brought him to Guthrie County to teach sixth grade at Adair-Casey. The rookie head man spent the last two seasons as freshman and junior varsity coach. 
His interest in the sport continues to go as he envisions a bright future at AC/GC. 
“I’ve always been a fan of volleyball,” Irwin said. “I played a little bit on the club team at Iowa State and I learned the basic knowledge from there.” 
The Chargers finished 21-10 overall last season, sitting at a tie for fourth in the West Central Activities Conference with a 4-4 record. 
AC/GC reached the regional semifinals before falling to eventual state qualifier, Council Bluffs St. Albert in three sets. 
A core of seniors are poised to replace the 332 kills MaKayla Hoing and Madylin Smith took with them at graduation. 
Senior Jadeyn Carrick, who tallied a team-best 51 blocks last season while also contributing 80 kills will be flanked by junior Olivia Laabs, who sent home 70 kills last fall along with a team-high 47 aces. She also led the team with 281 digs. 
Senior setter Chelsea Larson and her team-high 244 assists are back as well, forming a trio of top-notch veterans in addition to Savana Fuller (58 kills, 46 blocks), Genevieve Hoover (43 aces) and Paige Caltrider (45 assists), all seniors.  
“One of our biggest strengths is going to be our seven seniors that we have coming back. We have a large upperclassmen field, so we’re definitely going to utilize them as one of our big strengths,” Irwin said. “Setting a good example in practice with a good attitude and effort throughout the whole program. But purely looking at just the varsity side of things, (I’m looking for them) to come through in clutch situations and big games since they have all had a lot of varsity experience throughout the years.”
The talented senior class will be at the forefront of AC/GC’s success this fall, but it’s a pair of underclassmen that could take the Charger program to even greater heights. 
Six-foot, one inch freshman hitter, Chloe Largent should make some immediate noise on a front line that could prove to be one of the most formidable in the WCAC. 
Largent isn’t alone, either, fellow newcomer Audrey Stowe, a sophomore setter, could have a big impact as well, Irwin said. 
“(Largent) is a freshman coming in and we are looking for her to be strong in the front row,” Irwin said. “We have some underclassmen coming in and are mixing well with our upperclassmen.”
Getting balls to Largent, Carrick, Laabs and company will be a key factor in tight matches. Irwin will push his girls to move the ball quicker and with more assertiveness. Generating a smoother offense could mean the difference between a conference title and lackluster season. 
“We continue to work on our passing game and getting better kill attempts. That is going to be one of our biggest goals, trying to raise our percentage of kill attempts,” Irwin said. “It all originates from the pass. 
We’ve been working really hard on footwork and passing and serve-receive and trying to get started right away. Not go for long rallies and try to get the first kill every set and every game.”
Even with a new coach and a slew of newcomers, the Chargers are ready to attack the 2018 campaign head on. The West Central’s top seven hitters all graduated in the spring as did seven of the top nine defenders. This is the year for AC/GC to assert its dominance. 
“Our expectations are set very high,” Irwin said. “We had the third best record in the conference last year. We’re looking to be one of the top contenders again. We are hoping to get a good seed in the (regionals). We made it pretty far last year. So of course, doing that again and possibly a state (berth). We want to reach a conference title.”
The Chargers opened the 2018 season at West Central Valley Tuesday night. They’ll host their home opener against Van Meter Thursday evening at 7. The Bulldogs finished second to Des Moines Christian last fall with a 7-1 record.  
AC/GC will then hit the road Tuesday as they take on Cam in Anita. 

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