Teams compete in volleyball play date
By Brannon King / For the FCT
Summer play dates are a big part of the offseason for high school sports teams. Schools get the opportunity to prepare for upcoming seasons by participating in what serve as practice games against opponents – games that simulate regular season action. These play dates also often help give a glimpse of early-season strengths and weaknesses while there is still time to prepare for the games that count.
July 12 Belgreen High School hosted a large group of varsity and JV volleyball teams eager to get some practice for the fast-approaching 2018 season.
The day was broken up into two sessions, with seven JV squads taking the court for a few morning matches and nine varsity teams taking the floor in the afternoon. Belgreen, Tharptown, Russellville, Phillips, Covenant Christian, Marion County and Tishomingo County participated in both sessions, while Sheffield and Belmont played only in varsity matches.
The setup featured two courts playing 30-minute running clock matches – meaning non-stop action.
With three Franklin County schools participating, the matches were an opportunity to showcase some of the talent in the area. With many activities going on during the summer for students and coaches, getting everyone together at the same place at the same time is sometimes a challenge.
“We started practicing about the second week in June, but the varsity has not been together all summer because they have college classes, vacations and so forth,” said Belgreen head coach Teresa Whitten. “We had camp on Monday, and that was the first day that we’ve all been together. We went to West Morgan Tuesday and beat Decatur and Madison County and lost to West Point by one, so they did really well because they are a lot bigger schools.”
Tharptown’s Tracey Fretwell brought her team to Belgreen for the play date, and she’s also looking forward to the upcoming season. “This year we’ve got three seniors that have come back, and they are Makensy Hester, Erica Gray and Kasey McCormack,” Fretwell said. “We’ve got some young players, but for the most part, everyone has played at least a year, and they are hard working.
“We started in June, working out two days a week, and I’ve moved it up to three. This month, we’ve been working out and going to play dates. We went to Priceville a couple of days ago and did pretty well there.”
Meanwhile, the Russellville Golden Tigers have a new varsity head coach in Whitney Glover. Russellville JV coach Tori Lee was in charge of both the varsity and JV at the Belgreen play date, with Glover being out of town; Lee shared the two coaches’ plans for the growth of the program.
“We have sat down and really looked at what this program has needed and what we need to do to get Russellville on the map as far as being a state program,” Lee said.
Lee said Glover’s experience at a successful program like Lawrence County can pay dividends for the Russellville squad.
“She has seen firsthand what it takes to get there,” Lee said. “I played college volleyball, so I think both of us working together can really get these girls at a place where they are competing at state one day.”
The Russellville teams finished up the play date with a 3-0 JV record on the day, and the Lady Golden Tigers went 2-2 in varsity matches at Belgreen.
“We’ve been working hard, and the girls have been working with the strength and conditioning coach two to three days a week lifting weights, conditioning and working on strength,” Lee said. “Play dates really give you a chance to see where your strengths and weaknesses are and what you need to look to further improve on in practices and camp. We’re going to really start working hard, making sure that we’re building this program from the ground up and making sure the junior high girls are getting what they need, as well as the JV and varsity.”
Belgreen faced some challenges on the court last week in terms of missing personnel.
“Today we were without one of our best hitters, Ansley Tate, and last year’s libero, Bailey Wood, and that made a big difference for us,” Whitten explained. “We did pretty well against Sheffield and Tishomingo County, and then we lost to Phillips. Phillips is usually our rival every year at area, and they are always good.
“We start mandatory practices in August, and we’ll be practicing every day. We’ve just got to get better.”
For Tharptown, the 2018 season will provide a challenge defined by the team’s move to 2A classification.
“They’ve moved us up to a 2A, so we’re in a different area this year. We’re working hard to live up to that,” Fretwell said. “They’ve got us in with Addison and Double Springs this time, with Addison coming off probably about five state championships in a row.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us, but the girls are working hard, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”