Lady Tigers expect to be strong defensively

By Staff
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
A season after making the Elite Eight for the first time in the program's history, if the Hartselle Lady Tigers are going to make it an encore trip, they'll have to do so by filling spots left by three important seniors.
Leading hitters Mary Virginia Reeves and Lauren Drake and the team's setter Kayla Orr are all gone, and Hartselle's fortunes this season will at least partially depend on how well the Lady Tigers can fill those holes.
Drake was the team's leading hitter in 2006, finishing the season with 561 kills. Reeves also had a strong offensive role, finishing with 531 kills.
Orr was the team's setter and also its best server, finishing the season with 1,384 assists and a team-high 89 aces for the Lady Tigers.
All told, the three graduated seniors amassed a total of 1,204 kills, 656 digs and 191 aces.
"All three of those were key players for us," Hartselle coach Tanya Lybarger said of the trio of graduated seniors. "Mary Virginia Reeves was our middle hitter; Lauren Drake was an outside hitter and a major leader on the team; and Kayla Orr was my primary setter.
"All three of those are major losses."
But it's not all bleak for Hartselle this season, as the Lady Tigers return two of their better defensive players from 2006.
Senior Dana Lacey was the team's best defensive hitter and fellow senior Emily Roden was the team's libero – a defensive specialist position.
A third senior in Shauna Clemons played most of the 2006 season on the defensive back row and gives Hartselle another returning starter on the defensive side of the ball. Outside hitter Kaitlin Faulkner and defensive specialist Candice Light round out the five-member senior class.
"As I told the team today at practice, it's probably going to be hard for us to be as strong hitting as we have been in the past," Lybarger said. "But defensively, I think we have the opportunity to be a better team than we were last season. We have a lot of experience coming back at those positions, so I'm hoping we can use that to our advantage.
"If we can keep it in play and not let the ball drop, then that's just more opportunities for your opponent to possibly mess up.
"I still hope and think we're going to improve offensively, but I'm looking for our strong point to be the defense this year."
Junior outside hitter Chandler Orr was the team's third-leading hitter in 2006 and returns again this season. Joining her as key members of the junior class are right-side player Mallory Jones and Cerra Little, who is expected to take over as the team's starting setter.
Lybarger also plans to start one sophomore and one freshman on varsity at the start of the year. The sophomore is right-side player Alex Holmes, who was called up from the junior varsity at the end of the 2006 season, and the freshman is outside hitter Corey Livingston.
"Corey's got a bit of height," Lybarger said. "We lost several girls in Mary Virginia and Lauren who had height, so hopefully Corey can help us some in that department. Alex played strong for us at the end of last season and we're expecting her to be our secondary setter and play some right side."
Hartselle's Area 13 opponents include Brewer, which also advanced to the Elite Eight in 2006, Cullman and West Point. The Lady Tigers' non-area schedule includes tough games against Class 6A perennial power Huntsville as well as local rivals Austin and Decatur.
"I want us to play tough competition and hopefully our level of play will get better if we play the better teams," Lybarger said. "I'm sure we're going to take our share of losses and things, but hopefully a loss to a good team will help us more than a win over a bad team."
Hartselle has taken advantage of the summer months to get ready for the upcoming season.
The Lady Tigers had several play dates at Brewer High School, taking on teams from Austin, Brewer, Addison and Danville.
Hartselle also had the opportunity to host its own one-on-one camp at the Pettey Center with a special instructor. The instructor was Martin Methodist coach Rose Majers-Powell, who was a silver medalist on the U.S. Olympic team in 1984.
"That worked well for us because we were able to get a lot of individual attention," Lybarger said. "Sometimes if you go to a big camp with lots of teams attending, you don't get too much one-on-one learning."

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