By LOGAN DARNELL
Coal Valley News
VAN - The Van Junior-Senior High volleyball team boasts a much larger squad this season, with 22 coming out for the team. Seven seniors are among the nearly two dozen Lady Bulldogs in 2019. The team also welcomes seven freshmen into the mix, meaning that the oldest and youngest classes make up over half the roster.
With middle school volleyball beginning at Van last year, pathways for new students to break into the game before the high school level have opened up.
"Even just one year of experience is really helpful," says Coach Stephanie LaFauci. "I'm really impressed with the freshmen and what they're coming in with versus what we've had in the past."
For such a young program, which began three years ago, the girls have done quite well and have displayed good athleticism. With the school having 130 enrolled, the 22-strong team is notable. Provided more experience, LaFauci believes the team is capable of taking the next step. She adds that it has been a learning experience for her as a newer volleyball coach, as well as new Assistant Coach Chelsea Brown.
After losing many seniors last year, the floor has plenty of open positions to vie for. Hannah and Haleigh Brown, Kaitlyn Simmermaker and Casey Belcher were some of the seniors who played important team roles. This year's seniors are experienced and strong, including previous mainstays Karlie LaFauci and Kensley White.
Sophomore Jazmyn Gibson made a good showing as a freshman and should get more playing time this season. Junior Emma Vickers is a defensive expert who played as libero in 2018. The large amount of underclassmen will help to fill the junior varsity program in order to make an even stronger squad in coming years.
Coach LaFauci wants to see Van's hitting and serving get better in the season, which she notes is a thing that comes with time. Something that has been a major plus for the Lady Dogs, according to their coach, is their work ethic. They take advice and critique in stride and want to improve, LaFauci says.
The seniors' enthusiasm to mentor the freshmen is heartening to her, as it helps team chemistry and gives them encouragement to do the same in the future.
"[Volleyball] is new to our community, and our community gets so excited," says Coach Lafauci. "We get some good volleyball crowds."
Getting the middle school program will help to grow that enjoyment in Van. Having so many possibilities in 2019 will give the players and the area something to look forward to. Many tests lie ahead for Van volleyball, but to these girls, it is all part of the game.
"It's going to be a long year but a quick year," LaFauci says. "This time flies, really."
Van plays at Richwood High on Sept. 5 at a time to be determined, and hosts a tri with Sherman and Scott on Sept. 7, also at a time to be determined.