Saturday, August 06, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> CHS volleyball set for big year

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot High School volleyball team got back in the gym on a routine basis last month and the Lady Panthers have stayed busy since in preparation for the upcoming season, which will begin later this month.

Even though the Lady Panthers have only been practicing as a team for a few weeks since summer break, many of the players played club volleyball over the summer, so school practice sessions haven’t been near as rusty as they could be otherwise.

“We started back a few weeks ago,” said Cabot coach Kham Chanthaphasouk. “A lot of them played club volleyball. A couple of our girls actually went to nationals, so they played all the way up to the end of June. So they only had a very short break before they came back the end of July.”

One of the first things the Lady Panthers did in July was host a skills youth camp. The camp took place at CHS from July 18-22. Every Cabot high school player worked as camp instructors, and the participants were students entering grades 1-9.

The following week, July 28-30, the Lady Panthers participated in a team camp at Arkansas State University and after taking part in those team camp activities, they’d close the day with their own practice sessions.

Cabot has been practicing regularly since, and on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Lady Panthers participated in another team camp at Benton.

“They were so tired we gave them a day off today,” Chanthaphasouk said on Thursday.

The head coach is expecting good things from his now veteran team, led by five seniors: hitters Maddie Brown and Taylor Bell, setter Regan Campbell, libero Kaelee Simmons and defensive specialist Krystal Harden.

“We have a very solid group of seniors this year,” Chanthaphasouk said. “We can clearly see their progression, from year to year. They’re even stronger this year. So I believe this is going to be a very competitive team.

“This year they understand my expectations more than any other group, and I think they’re going to be a strong group of leaders. I’m pretty pleased overall with their level of maturity and their leadership so far with what I’ve seen on the court and off the court.”

Those seniors have been big-time contributors for the program since they were underclassmen. Harden suffered a torn ACL late in the spring and is in the final stages of rehabbing that knee, but is expected to be back playing no later than early September.

“She really blossomed toward the end of (last) season and during the spring,” Chanthaphasouk said of Harden. “She played club volleyball. I would expect she will be a strong contributor to the success of the team once she comes back as a defensive player.”

Chanthaphasouk, who is entering his third season as the head coach at Cabot, knows the production he’s going to get from his experienced seniors, and also said he likes the way his newcomers have progressed this summer as well.

“We have a very talented 10th grade group of players,” Chanthaphasouk said, “and I’ve had them for two years. I have the luxury of going to Junior High North or South every morning, so I’ve been working with these 10th graders also the last two years.”

All in all, it’s been a productive summer for the Lady Panthers, who Chanthaphasouk said are driven to get better, and they very much look forward to getting the season underway.

“They’re very, very driven,” Chanthaphasouk said. “They’re all excited to be here. I like to focus right now on conditioning and individual skills, because we were able to work on a lot of teamwork at the team camps we went to. So after this week, we’ll probably shift the focus a little more on team drills and things like that.”

The very first game action the Lady Panthers will compete in will be Aug. 18 at Conway High School in a benefit jamboree that’ll feature several teams. Cabot’s first regular season match will be Aug. 23 at home against Benton.