Leader Blues

Friday, August 15, 2008

SPORTS>>Lady Bears round into match form as season nears

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

The Sylvan Hills Lady Bears have had two good weeks of practice to start their fall volleyball camp, with 25 players making up this year’s squad. There will be eight seniors on this year’s team, including three returning senior starters.

Sitter Nicole Goff, blocker Kaci Willis and all-conference hitter Courtney Luth return the most experience to the Lady Bears, with the rest of the upperclassmen coming from last year’s junior varsity team.

Head coach Harold Treadway said the group has made a lot of progress since the first day of practice on Aug. 3, adding that the girls have such a good grasp of the fundamentals they could handle a match now, even with close to two weeks left before the season opens.

“We might not get every ball,” Treadway said. “But we could definitely play a game. We’ve put a lot on them the first week, and they have all responded well.”

The only drawback for the Lady Bears has been consistency in attendance. With some families squeezing in last-minute vacations, and others attending cheerleading, band and academic func tions, the team has been about four people short each day on average. Treadway is hoping that the closer it gets to the start of the fall semester the attendance will improve.

Last year’s team graduated several talented players, but the most notable absence is that of Megan Gwatney, the all-state hitter, who was also a strong team leader for the Lady Bears since her sophomore year in 2005. Treadway said he knows the loss of all-purpose standout and Midland College Lady Chaps freshman Gwatney is a tough one, but it’s the not the first time, he added.

“Several people have come up and asked what we’re going to do without Megan this year,” Treadway said. “But every year we lose a group of good, experienced players. Now granted, Megan was a super player – that’s why she’s in west Texas playing at the next level now, but we have some seniors this year that are working very hard. Their actions speak pretty loud for them, and they are all good kids.”

Goff and Willis both bring solid experience back to the team, and big expectations will sit on the shoulders of Luth. With good size and fierce hitting ability, Treadway expects Luth to have an even stronger season in 2008, and gain valuable leadership experience.

“The girls are excited, but it’s not as important to the kids who have other things going on,” Treadway said. “A lot of them are into cheerleading and band, but Courtney plays junior Olympic volleyball, and wants to play volleyball in college.”

The Lady Bears open their season on Aug. 26 at Greenbrier.