Tuesday, August 11, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> NP Falcons’ volleyball small, fiery

Leader sports editor

The 2015 North Pulaski volleyball team is lacking in depth, but competes hard, according to head coach Ben Belton. The Lady Falcons have only 10 players on the roster, not even enough for two full rotations of players. Six players, including four projected starters, have transferred to Sylvan Hills, while ninth graders who may have contributed to the varsity team are playing in the ninth-grade league at Jacksonville because NPHS did not have enough for a freshmen team.

“We can’t get anyone hurt, that’s for sure,” said Belton. “I like the ones I have, though. We’re not extremely athletic, but we’ve got some talent. They’re competitive and they work hard. I think we can make another playoff run.”

The Lady Falcons have enjoyed some success in camps over the summer. At the most recent one at Hendrix College in Conway, the Falcons beat Jacksonville, Arkansas Baptist and Conway St. Joseph, while losing to Morrilton and Fort Smith Southside.

“We have a long way to go, but there’s not much mystery about our lineup,” Belton said. “We’re going to go with who we’ve got and that’s all we’ve got. I think when you look at how we played against teams in our league, and when you compare how we did against other teams and how they did against those same teams, we’re not going to be out-manned. We’re going to be able to compete. Now how many we’re actually going to win, I can’t tell you. But I know we’ll be competitive. We’ll be in the hunt.”

The foundation of the small team will be a core of four seniors returning from last season. Kiarra Evans was an effective middle blocker and outside hitter last season. Payton Mullen provides experience at the key position of setter, and also has a strong service game. Makya Brown and Pauline Belola also bring two years of varsity experience to the lineup.

Sophomores Kelsey McQueen, Lindsey Burns and Russian foreign exchange student Lexi Sviardov also figure into the starting lineup. Taylor Reardon and Ashley Felton provide what little bench depth the team has. Amia Evans could also figure into things, but is current missing practice with an injury.

“That’s about it,” Belton said. “That’s the whole lineup. One thing we’re going to have to do is get in better shape because people aren’t going to be able to leave the floor. When we get in those five-set matches, we’re going to have to be in better shape than our opponent because we’re not going to be able to substitute as much.

“But like I said, I like the ones I have and we’re going to compete hard.”