Leader Blues

Friday, August 21, 2009

SPORTS >> Young team tries to copy ’08 success

Leader sportswriter

Repeating the success of last year will not come without some rebuilding for the North Pulaski Lady Falcons. Coach Amanda Hill has 13 girls out for fall volleyball camp, with only one returning senior starter.

The Lady Falcons were runners-up in the 5A-Southeast Conference last year and Hill said earning a second straight trip to the postseason will depend to some extent on the development of younger players.

There are three seniors on the squad, but two have been out of the program for at least a year. The juniors account for only four others, while six sophomores fill out the roster.

We had a good practice (Tuesday),” said Hill. “I think that was the first time that coach (Ann) Tharp and I walked out of practice and felt really good about it. As far as putting the offense and defense all together, yesterday was really the first day that we saw it all gel together. It was pretty good.”

Laura Dortch has returned for her senior year. Dortch has served as a solid all-purpose player in two seasons at North Pulaski and has been one of the Lady Falcons’ leading scorers and strongest defensive players. Dortch’s performance in the 5A state tournament last year earned her a selection to the all-state tournament team.

The other returning starters are junior Kaylee Belcher, who earned an all-state nod in 2008, and outside hitter Shayla Clemons, also a junior.

“I think we’ve got a good rotation,” said Hill. “We’re going to be okay. We would still like to have a lot more players on our team. That would give us some more depth. I would say overall that the entirety of the depth is what’s going to be a hindrance to us.”

In the Most Improved category, Cidney Adams has benefited from playing Junior Olympic volleyball during the summer, and Hill said that experience has paid off on the high school court. Adams will play the middle.

There is a lot of development taking place with the sophomores, but one 10th grader, Erica Schrunk, will see plenty of playing time on the back row. Hill hopes that junior varsity experience for the rest of the sophomores will have even more players ready by the time conference season gets in full swing.

“We look for development on the JV program,” said Hill. “Coach Tharp does a good job with them. She always continues with those fundamentals during the year to where they are ready for varsity toward the end of the season. There’s potential there to improve and be able to help us in the years to come.”

The Lady Falcons were one of few teams that gave a dominant Sylvan Hills team much of a fight in conference matches last year. The Lady Bears swept their conference season, but will be without some key seniors from last year. Despite younger teams throughout the league, the Lady Falcons are preparing for battles with all of the usual suspects.

“I still think Sylvan Hills is going to be strong,” said Hill. “Even though some are saying it’s a rebuilding year, I still think they’re going to be strong. Coach Moore does a good job at Beebe, and we always play pretty evenly with them, so that’s always a good match for us – a good rivalry. We play kind of similar, so between that and the uniforms, it can be confusing.”

The Lady Falcons open the season at Vilonia on Tuesday, and will have their first home match on Thursday against Mayflower.