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Despite having three talented and experienced seniors, the 2010 campaign was a disappointing year for the Lady Panther volleyball team, which finished 8-14. However, third-year head coach Kristen Arbinger Hooper said she is excited about the talent level of this year’s squad and how well they work together as a team.
Leading the team are seniors Leah Chandler, Alyssa Hartman, Celess Parson and Olivia Welch. Chandler and Hartman are returning starters on last year’s team. Parson played some varsity last season, but mostly played on the junior varsity squad, while Welch played on varsity her sophomore season, but did not play at all her junior year.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing how they take on the leadership role and pick up their games to pull the team together because not all of them have a lot of varsity experience,” Hooper said. “But I have all the confidence in the world in them.”
She said the seniors are looking forward to their final season wearing the black and gold. “They’re going to do everything in their power because they are very driven individuals. They do all the little things that (can) lead to a successful season.”
The team will play with nine varsity players, all of whom will see playing time. “We have a lot of solid passers on our team, so I think all of our varsity players will see playing time, which is great because that is important for team morale.”
One major stumbling block for last year’s team was their border rivals, Trimble County. The Lady Raiders posted a 4-1 record over the Lady Panthers, winning four-in-a-row, including knocking them out of the 31st District Tournament. The two have the opportunity to play each other five times again this season, as the schools have two games already scheduled and there is a chance they could play in the All-A, the Carroll County River Classic Tournament and the district tournament.
Hooper said she wants her team to focus on improving their defense and their serving. “Defense wins games, and it’s hard to score points against a team with great defense,” she said. With their serves, she said it is not necessarily about nailing more aces, but rather forcing more shanked passes by the opposing team.
This year’s Carroll County River Classic Tournament Sept. 24 will be expanded to 10 teams. In addition to Trimble, Fort Knox and Iroquois are among the teams participating.
Hooper said she looks forward to playing Gallatin County because it is a rivalry game and Walton-Verona because of the close competition. The Lady Panthers will also take on Bellevue at home and away, which gives them another opportunity to see new faces.
“Our team goal is to win All-A and the conference,” Hooper said, “and I think these are very achievable goals.”