Friday, August 03, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe girls have senior leadership in volleyball

Leader sportswriter

There are still a few questions when it comes to exactly who will be the starting six for the Beebe Lady Badgers as they prepare for another season of 5A East Conference volleyball.

But there is no question that this year’s team will be improved in all areas. The Lady Badgers, who narrowly missed earning a spot in the 5A state tournament last season under first-year coach Ashley Camp, are bigger, stronger and have extra depth with the addition of several talented sophomores.

Camp has found the preseason much easier to handle this time around with the help of four seniors and one junior who are acclimated to her system, which will now feature a more aggressive 5-1 offensive court setup.

“I’ve been impressed, particularly with the varsity group,” Camp said. “We’ve had several sophomores to step up. We’ve been working hard and dealing with the heat. I think we’re much better off from where we were at last year.”

The senior group is made up of Sachi Graham, Brittany Mitchell, Destiny Britt and 6-0 standout hitter Stephanie Pollnow. Madison Richie is the lone junior on this year’s team, and the only multi-sport athlete as a guard on the Lady Badger basketball squad under her father Greg Richie, as well as a standout track athlete

Camp said there has been no conflict between basketball team camps and practice time on the volleyball court for Richie, who will work as both a setter and hitter depending on the game situation.

Underclassmen take up over half the roster of 15, led by sophomore setter Brittany Gentry.

“We’re going to be stronger offensively and defensively,” Camp said. “We’re going to a 5-1 for our primary offense as opposed to the 6-2 we used last year. That gives us one primary setter, so we have to be smart about the game. Defensively, we have a lot more ball control this year. We’re already better than what we were last year, and we’re not even through with camp.”

Pollnow impressed last season with her size, athleticism and technique, but had a tendency to be timid at the net at times in situations where she could have most likely dominated. But a year of team camps and offseason Junior Olympic volleyball in Conway has given her more experience, and more ability.

“She’s come along even more,” Camp said. “She’s more aggressive when she needs to be now. We look for her to be a strong player and a strong leader for us this year. She is using her size and taking advantage of it a little more.”

There is both in-state and out-of-state college interest in Pollnow, but Camp was unsure of the status when it came to going on record with naming any school.

Another new addition to the Lady Badgers this year is assistant coach Alyson Boone, who will also lead the freshmen group. Boone grew up playing in Cabot under legendary coach Terry Williams, and played college volleyball at Lyon College in Batesville.

“We have very similar philosophies,” Camp said. “We work really well together. She will focus more on offense, and I will handle the defense.”

The Lady Badgers will open the season with a home non conference match against Lonoke on Aug. 21.