By Rob Patrick
There have been few, if any, Bryant volleyball teams that have gone as far as the 2010 Lady Hornets and there are even[more] fewer still that expected to go as far as the 2011 Lady Hornets have designs to go.
That’s because the 2011 team returns all but two of the players that forged the run to the Class 7A State Tournament, won a match against Rogers Heritage and advanced to the quarterfinals before being ousted by the eventual State champion Bentonville.
The returning players include all-State selections Brianna White on the front row and libero Lauren Reed plus all-State Tournament pick, setter Hannah Rice.
The Lady Hornets open the 2011 season at a jamboree in Benton featuring several teams on Thursday, Aug. 18. Their official season opener will be at Fountain Lake on Thursday, Aug. 25.
The team includes seniors Alex Boone, Reed, Peyton Thacker, Taylor West and White; and juniors Rochelle Aguilar, Alyssa Anderson, Carley Choate, Courtney Davidson, Britten Hays, Brooke Howell, Hannah Rice, McKenzie Rice and Kaylon Wilson; with the addition of sophomores Aubree Allen, Ashley Caton, Caylin Choate, Kaley Coppock, Becka Shaddon and Erica Smith.
“We’re excited about this season,” stated head coach Beth Solomon, who will be assisted again this year by Julie Long. “We’re ready to get going. We’ve been practicing since July so now the girls are kind of — I’m worried we’re starting to get into a lull where we’re a little bit tired of practicing and ready to start playing. Luckily, next week starts school and we’re playing Thursday.
“This year, we’ve got five seniors and most of them if not all of them will see varsity playing time,” continued Solomon. “It’s nice to have that group of girls back. We’re going to miss the leadership in the ones we had last year but these girls are going to step up and take that role.”
White and Anderson will be the middle hitters in the starting lineup with Reed back at libero and Hannah Rice at setter. West, on the back row, and McKenzie Rice, an outside hitter, both return. Davidson played on the front line but has been hampered by injury in the pre-season. Solomon said Howell will be in the varsity mix as well as Thacker, who returns this year after not playing as a junior.
“We’ve got some height this year which is something we haven’t had a whole bunch of in the past,” Solomon mentioned. “We’re going to use that to our advantage.
“With only losing two girls, though, and being able to fill those spots and having a lot of our varsity players returning, that’s going to help us a lot to go that much further,” she added. “Because that many girls already have varsity experience. And they’ve gotten better.
“We went to team camp in Springfield, Mo., at Missouri State like we do every year and that, again, helped,” Solomon said. “And a lot of the girls went to individual camps like the Rice girls went to UCA and they’re arm-swings have improved tremendously, not that they were ever bad but they’re just that much better. And that’s going to help us that much more, that we’ve got our setter, Hannah, that we can go to as a hitter too and different things like that.”
Regarding the team camp, she mentioned, “This year, we had three teams, three different groups. With 20 girls, we’re going to have enough to have a sophomore game (along with JV and varsity) before at least three of our seven conference games. And we’re excited about that because that just helps build our program.
“We did our kids camp,” she continued. “They’ve been going hard pretty much all summer and, with the 120-degree heat index, it’s been hard on them.”
The team has been practicing in the BHS gym, which isn’t air-conditioned, something that, if they can get accustomed to, can be something of a home-court advantage against some of their opponents.
“We’d been practicing from 8 a.m. to 11 in our first practice but from then on we’ve gone from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., to kind of try to avoid some of the heat and avoid a lot of those heat illnesses,” Solomon related.
“I feel like we’ve definitely gotten better,” she noted. “Our group that played varsity at team camp got first place in Silver (division), which is a good accomplishment for us as far as summer stuff we’ve been doing. Our two JV groups at camp did well also.”
The Lady Hornets’ schedule is here.