By LOGAN DARNELL
For the Coal Valley News
MADISON - Scott High's Lady Skyhawks volleyball squad has seen many new additions in 2019, including seven freshmen on the roster of 20.
The team, however, does enjoy plenty of senior representation, with another seven belonging to the class of 2020.
This creates an exciting scenario for new coaches Liz Underwood and Angela Phillips. They have had the opportunity to begin working with newcomers while also trying out new strategies with the more seasoned players. Coach Underwood does consider the Lady Hawks as a whole to be a "new, young team," due to the new freshmen and a new approach to offense.
Underwood lists a few of the attributes of the new attack: "We're really concentrating on attacking from the right side. We're running six hitters, two setters. We're trying to get the girls comfortable with hitting from the back row."
The right side has also improved, since Underwood and Phillips stressed making sure the team is solid in that area. With roles on the court being set in stone, substitutions will be important for Scott's girls in order for them to play to their strengths the whole game.
The more complicated offense is a work in progress, but the new coaches anticipate seeing a solid, competitive team emerge from it during the season with the help of hard work and leadership from the team's veteran players.
Senior Cassidy Mitchell is a strong hitter for Scott, as well as Kathryn Underwood. Makaila West acts as the team's go-to setter. Finally, back row players Kelsi Akers and libero Lexxie Phillips round out the returning seniors. Underwood added that one of the new seniors, middle hitter Chloe Older, has strengthened the varsity team all-around.
The team's lone junior on the varsity squad, Kirsten Arthur, switched from the back row to the front for the new season. The move outside the box has paid off for her, as her coach says she is playing great front-row ball. Varsity sophomores include hitters Abby Walls and Jolyssa Mullins, and setter Emalee Dunlap. Two freshmen have made enough of an impact so far that they will see varsity action - hitter Chloe Brown and setter/defender Dailan Adkins.
One challenge faced by the squad is the presence of a few girls who have not had as much experience playing together. The girls will need to learn one another's strengths and weaknesses in order to play well together. The girls' entry into the Capital Classic Tournament lets them take on AAA teams, proving vital to the team's growth.
The spike in interest for volleyball in the county can chiefly be attributed to the Southern West Virginia Youth Volleyball League, which saw 195 girls participate. The program's presence has been important for volleyball at Scott and elsewhere, something for which Coach Underwood is thankful.
"You want a great league program feeding into your athletics at the high school and middle school levels," she said.
She gives a shout out in gratitude to Josh and Christine Justice along with Driven Knights, Inc., at Six Mile. Other thanks go to Boone Memorial for their support of athletics in the county, Principal Jacob Messer and Athletic Director Brian Linville for their work to help the team as administrators, and Underwood's go-to person, Pam Nelson. All have made what she and Phillips have been doing with the team possible.
Underwood said she looks forward to the girls finding fun in playing hard and competing. To her, fun is "when you try your hardest, and you play your best possible that you can do on that given day."
Phillips said she values being familiar with the girls on the team over many years, as it means they have been comfortable working together.
The Lady Hawks play Nitro away on Sept. 12 at 6 p.m. Scott's next home match will be a tri against Buffalo and Man on Sept. 19, beginning at 6 p.m.