TAYLOR MILL, Ky. -- Kelly Franxman took a couple of minutes to grab a drink of water and wipe the sweat from her forehead Monday afternoon between drills and conditioning. A giant fan under one of the basketball goals inside the Scott High School gym offered only slight relief from the heat.
She was one of 23 players surrounding two nets on the first day of volleyball practice. They were working on serves, digs and sets in hopes of being part of the three-time defending 10th Region champion Eagles this fall. Players ran from one end of the gym to the other. They grabbed a drink of water as often as they could. Then, at the end of a three-hour first official day of practice, they did conditioning work.
"It's difficult because it's really hot," said Franxman, a senior at Scott and a Xavier University volleyball recruit. "Everyone is always sweaty and the floor is always wet. Then we do conditioning. But the team just has fun and we bond and run around and yell and stuff. We help each other through it."
Like so many high school fall sports teams, the Scott volleyball players were preparing for a long road and a long season that doesn't simply begin with the season opener in August. They work during the summer for the privilege of being on the team and they work hard.
"Our gym is probably one of the hottest in the area," Scott coach Andrea Sullivan said. "It makes our girls tougher. We don't have air conditioning. We don't get the luxury of practicing in the pool. If you can make it through this, when you're down, you know you can get yourself out of a hole."
While the players worked, Sullivan and her assistants were evaluating them. By Wednesday, coaches would pull players aside to go over evaluation forms and talk about the good they've done, maybe some bad things and certainly what they need to work on. Players also find out if they've made the team.
"We won't have to do too many cuts," Sullivan said.
The varsity team will travel with 12 players throughout the year. Coaches want to make sure they have eight to 10 players for the freshman team and they'll also have a junior-varsity team. Players can and will jump from one level to another and back as they get better and work their way up and improve throughout the season.
Where players begin the season will depend a lot on their performance this week.
"They push us really hard, but they know we can handle it," sophomore Keaton Mossman said. "Of course, the conditions are difficult to work with, but it gets us sweating and it prepares us mentally and physically. That's what they push for us. They want us to be strong physically and mentally so we can push through."
As grueling as preseason tryouts and practices are, it's certainly not the beginning of preparations for most players. Coaches are not permitted to work with or have contact with players prior to the official start of practice, but they know the players are working.
"I play club and that starts in December and goes until the end of June," Franxman said. "After that, I have a few weeks off before we start and I go to training to try to whip myself into shape before we start high school (volleyball).
"During club season, I'll wake up and do something fun. Do summer. And then I'll go to practice for a few hours and get home and go to sleep."
After practice on Monday, Franxman planned to do more training on her own and then relax for the rest of the day.
It's a bit different for players who do not play club volleyball, but they're working throughout the offseason as well. Mossman said she spent about an hour and a half each day on volleyball workouts this summer.
"They always give us stuff to do to work out," Mossman said. "They always tell us to do little things on our own with the ball or get together and give us drills to do.
"I usually go out on a run for stamina. I go on a mile run and I'll do some ball work. I'll do stuff against the wall by myself to get my footwork ready for the season."
Most of the players come into preseason practice prepared, but Sullivan said it can be a rude awakening for some.
"It's a little bit over their head," Sullivan said. "High school ball is a lot different than middle school ball."
Coaches have also spent a lot of time away from the practice court preparing for the season. Sullivan and her staff recently spent a weekend together talking about what they have returning and next steps. Those conversations continue after the players leave for the day.
"After practice, we'll look at who we have and kind of start narrowing things down," Sullivan said. "What positions do we need? If a player looks like she can help us eventually, that's somebody we keep. I'm big on attitude and effort. We're really lucky that we have a good group of girls.
"A lot of it will happen with us just sitting on the bleachers here. We do a lot of pre-planning for the season. We spent about five hours the other day at my house just talking about things."
Volleyball season begins Aug. 14 in Kentucky.