By Sam Poe
Thursday, August 1, 2013 | 6:08 PM
The Haleyville Lady Lions volleyball team is looking forward to the start of the 2013 season. Coach Emily Johnson stated the girls have worked extremely hard this summer in preparation for the fall. The girls have participated in running and agility programs, as well as practicing in their own spare time to be better. She stated the attitude of the team overall is great, and she is excited to see how the season goes. Johnson's goal for the season is to advance to the Elite 8 State Tournament, after only reaching the regional tournament last year. This years team consists of two seniors, four juniors, one sophomore, and one freshman.
As with many teams, the Lady Lions are already struggling to overcome adversity after a summer of injuries. The starting setter for the Lady Lions was Perri Gilbert. However, she was out last season due to a torn ACL, and earlier this month, she tore the other ACL during team camp. Gilbert is out until January and will not be able to play her senior season with the Lady Lions. Anna Laine Godsey also suffered a knee injury this summer during team camp for the softball team, but she had surgery to repair the damage. Godsey is currently awaiting release from her doctor. Johnson stated she has a tough group of girls and is confident in their ability to overcome these obstacles, as well as any others that arise.
When asked about players to watch this year, Johnson stated she only has one returning player who will be playing the same position as last year. That player is Tia White, who will be the primary setter for the Lady Lions. Johnson stated she will heavily rely on White to lead the team and to set up key plays on the court. Tori Pendley will also be an impact player for the Lady Lions, and she is expected to lead the offense with big plays. Taylor Lollar and Holly Wiggins are also expected to make a huge difference for the Lady Lions. Johnson stated that although these players will be the key to the offense, she is looking for more ladies to step up and be leaders on the team and to contribute on both sides of the ball.
Throughout the offseason and summer, Johnson stated one player has made tremendous improvements in all areas. Taylor Lollar has committed herself to the sport, and she has been playing volleyball with a club team since the end of HHS Basketball. This gave Lollar the opportunity to see a variety of teams play across the Southeast and provided her with a chance to play with and against some of the best players in the region. Johnson also stated Lollar has a great attitude and work ethic, which has significantly contributed to her improvement. Lollar contributes her improvement to playing club ball, as well as a couple of specialized camps she attended earlier this summer. She stated she attended a serving a serving and agility camp at the University of Mississippi to improve her jump serve and increase her speed. She also attended a defensive camp at the University of North Alabama to improve her defensive skills for play on the back row. Lollar is an upcoming junior and has set her goals on leading her team to the state tournament. However, she stated that her biggest personal goal is to earn a volleyball scholarship to continue her education after graduation.
The Lady Lions have gone through extensive practice and training this summer. Tina Seals, the former Head Volleyball Coach at Mississippi State University, conducted a team camp at HHS earlier this summer. Johnson stated the girls worked hard and learned a lot during the camp, and the coaches learned new drills to implement in practice throughout the season. The Lady Lions also hosted a practice day this week for four area teams. The Lady Lions did not do as well as they would have liked, but Johnson feels they saw areas for improvement as they continue practice leading into their season. Johnson stated this was the first time many of the girls had faced any varsity competition, and she is confident it will help them to focus on problem areas to work through them before the season begins.
The Lady Lions will open the 2013 season at Russellville High School August 29. Johnson stated the girls have worked hard preparing for this game, but one of the biggest factors in a successful season is having a crowd at the games to support them. Johnson stated she is thankful for the community support, and she invites everyone to attend as many games as possible to support the Lady Lions.
For more photos of the practice games, [CLICK HERE].