Friday, August 22, 2008

SPORTS>>Losses leave Lady Falcons scrambling

Leader sportswriter

The numbers are a bit thin, but there is no shortage of hitters on this year’s North Pulaski Lady Falcons volleyball team.

Sophomores make up the majority of this year’s team, but the talent in the young group has Lady Falcons coach Amanda Hill excited about her team’s prospects this season.

“We’ve been at it for almost three weeks now,” Hill said. “Things are slowly coming along. We’re young; the majority of our team is 10th graders, but it’s the 10th-grade group that won their conference last year. We’re having to learn a new offense
this year and put those things together, but it’s coming along.”

Hill started with a hearty 19 players at the start of camp, but a number of players left due to eligibility issues, and another exited for disciplinary reasons, leaving her with just 13 girls.

Along with the talented underclassmen, there will be some experience at the front, with 6-0 junior Rae Robinson returning, as well as senior Laura Dortch, who spent much of last season out injured. She is back at full health this year, and Hill hopes she will provide leadership on the offensive front.

Sophomores Shayla Clements and Kaylee Belcher move up from last year’s River City Conference-winning freshman team to varsity this year. Clements, a hitter, brings solid power to the line, and Hill says that Belcher promises to be the best setter she has had at NP.
With Clements joining Robinson at the front, and Belcher’s precision at setter, Hill hopes the kill percentage will increase this year.

“We have more hitters than we had last year, and the setter that we have can place the ball where it needs to be,” Hill said.

“When you have a good setter, the hitting will always be better. We have more hitters, so I’m expecting to see more points scored out of our hits.”

Senior Kalayah Anderson will fill the critical libero position this season, bringing proven experience to the defensive backcourt.

It will be the Lady Falcons’ first season back in the 5A Southeast Conference after two seasons in the 5A-East, along with local schools Beebe and Sylvan Hills. Hill expects the Lady Bears to be the team to beat in conference this year, and also said that Beebe will be a team on the rise.

The move is a good one, according to Hill, who said the prospect of not having to play against powerhouses such as Wynne and Nettleton on a weekly basis helped the motivation factor coming into fall practice.

As far as depth, or lack thereof, Hill said that team health will most likely be the determining factor for the Lady Falcons this season.

“It’s a long season; kids get hurt,” Hill said. “In volleyball, it’s not like another sport where you can just put a kid out there to play a forward position. Those are skilled positions, so when you have one or two setters, or just one hitter for that spot when that goes down, it can really mess your season up, so I’m definitely worried about that.”