Friday, August 14, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> LHS volleyball will be young, but talented and dedicated

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke High School volleyball team has been practicing routinely since the early part of July in preparation for the upcoming season, which starts Aug. 24, and although the team still has plenty to continue to work on, head coach Laura Park is pleased with the work her team has put in thus far.

Lonoke has just two players returning that logged significant varsity minutes in 2014, but plenty of players returning that were on last year’s conference championship team, as well as a high number of talented sophomores that saw lots of success at the junior high level.

This year’s sophomores lost only one game last year as freshmen, and ended their 2014 season with a district tournament championship.

“I have 10 returning players from last year’s team,” said Park, “and then I have 10 10th graders, and they’ve been working really hard since the first week of July. We started practicing on July 6, and we’d been practicing twice a day until last week.

“We’ve been to three team camps and they competed real well. We’ve been trying to work on narrowing it down to a true varsity and true JV. My 10th grade group is really good, so I don’t know that there will be a true split this year.

“There may be some girls playing both ways. It just depends on how their day or their week is going. But they’ve been working really hard, and I’m very encouraged so far.”

The returning talent along with the gifted sophomore class has Park expecting a great year for her team, and the talent in each class has led to some competitive practices, according to the head coach.

“I think it’s going to be a great year,” Park said. “They get along really well, but there’s also a lot of competition between these 10th graders and the juniors and seniors because this 10th grade group, they’ve got a lot of talent.

“Granted, the 10th graders don’t have high school experience, but several of them have played club ball and they’ve played above their age division, so I think they’re going to be a good asset and everybody’s pushing each other, which is making us a better team.”

Seniors Jarrelyn McCall and Ashlyn Allen are the only two players that saw much playing time at the varsity level last fall. McCall started throughout the year. Allen started at times during the year, and both have been leaders on the court this summer and have done so in different ways.

“They’re both good leaders and both have pretty good work ethic,” Park said of those two. “Jarrelyn’s a very high energy person, so the kids tend to gravitate toward that. But Ashlyn, a lot of times she’s a little more compassionate. She wants to include the others and build them up, too.

“She’s been a great leader in that aspect, but on and off the court they’re both great kids. They’re both good athletes, and on and off the court they’re both good leaders.”

With the current talent in place, the Lady Rabbits expect to be contenders for the league crown again in 2015. They’ll start the process of trying to repeat as conference champs very soon. Their season starts Aug. 24 at Arkansas Baptist.

Lonoke will play Clinton in the Lady Rabbits’ home opener on Aug. 25 before the team takes part in the Spikefest Tournament on Aug. 29. The Lady Rabbits will then travel to Central Arkansas Christian on Aug. 27 before closing the month at Pulaski Robinson on the 31st.

“Our first match this year is a conference match,” Park said, “because we have nine teams in our conference, and we’re playing everybody twice, plus the district tournament. So we’re going to start right off the bat with conference play.

“Hopefully we’ll do as well as we did last year. We won conference last year, so I’m hoping we’ll do as well as we did last year in conference play.”