The search for a new head coach is all but over, but the search for setters continues as the Jacksonville Lady Red Devils prepare for volleyball season in their new conference home of the 5A Central from their former 6A East Conference.
Though it is not yet official, former assistant Kendra Sauheaver is projected to be the new head Lady Devil pending a formal interview process, replacing former coach Justine Rial. Rial took the job in 2009, replacing Missy Reeves. Reeves then took over again in 2010 while Rial went back to school to earn her master’s degree. Rial led the team again last season, but now Sauheaver takes over as the Lady Devils’ foray into the 5A classification.
Sauheaver inherits five seniors on this year’s roster of 13 players, but only a few have significant varsity court time.
Jacksonville’s most experienced senior, hitter Victoria Cummings, will not see court time this season due to a knee injury, but is still helping out with the team as a mentor to younger players, as well as lending moral support. The impact of Cummings’ court absence is offset somewhat by the return of fellow senior Coyja Hood, who missed last season due to a knee injury.
The Lady Devils will rely on a new group of hitters this season, including senior Alunte Petties and junior Markela Bryles, as well as sophomores Taylor Hayden and Bailey Mitchell, who will also put in time as a setter.
The setter situation is still up in the air, as Sauheaver has evaluated several players in the first two weeks of practice.
“We’re still playing around with that,” Sauheaver said. “We have two or three we’re working with. We may be switching some of them around a few times.”
Sauheaver expects to find some answers as the team attends a three-day camp at Vilonia this week. The camp will also host Heber Springs, Conway St. Joseph and North Pulaski. The camp started on Monday and continued into Tuesday, with the final day on Thursday.
Seniors joining Hood and Petties are Mori Shore, Shyrel McKinney and defensive specialist Katie Lawrence, the only three-year returning starter.
“We’re pretty well on schedule,” Sauheaver said. “We still have a few things that need to be worked out through practices and drills.”
Sauheaver is a teacher at Dupree Elementary, and served as an assistant under Rial last season on the Jacksonville volleyball team before taking the helm as head coach of the North Pulaski girls soccer team.
Her teaching duties will remain separate from coaching, and the plan for now is for Sauheaver to coach volleyball at Jacksonville this fall and return to the soccer field at North Pulaski in the spring.
The Lady Red Devils will open the regular season on Aug. 20 with a match at Pulaski Robinson.