The makeup of Horseshoe Bend volleyball’s roster between the 2020 and 2021 seasons has rotated faster than a topspin serve.
After a core of six seniors guided the program to its third consecutive area title in 2020, the team doesn’t boast a single senior on its roster in 2021. It has three total upperclassmen, all juniors.
As such, Horseshoe Bend head coach Julie Turner is focused on the present and improving her young core, not the 24-match win streak or run to the state tournament made by the squad a season ago.
“We can’t look at last year. We’ve gotta worry about what we can do and not dwell on the success of the past,” Turner said. “Because if we do that we’re adding too much pressure to ourselves.”
Replacing the exodus of talent that went with Horseshoe Bend’s senior class last year would appear a daunting task to most onlookers.
Three of the Generals’ top four attackers in terms of kills are gone, with Caly Carlisle leading the way at 252.
If you want to talk about serving experience, the Generals’ armies have been decimated. Horseshoe Bend’s six fourth-year standouts were the only six players on the team with more than five aces — each had at least 50. Carlisle again led the way with 99.
The biggest loss could be on the defensive end, however, with libero Abby Cheatham departing after being named the Outlook’s 2020 Volleyball Player of the Year and starting for four seasons at the position. Her 349 digs more than doubled Carlisle’s second-best team total of 167.
Sophomore Marli Price replaces her in 2021. Given the physical demands and difficulties of the position, which often requires that players dive to the hardwood floor to dig out opposing attacks, Turner expects some growing pains in the underclassman’s first season as a starter.
“She’s coming along OK,” Turner said. “She’s got a lot of work to do. But again, we really haven’t had an opportunity to see a lot of action, so it’s kind of hard for me to know exactly what she can do. She can pass, of course, but I don’t know as far as reading offenses because we haven’t had that opportunity yet.”
One key returning player for the Generals is junior middle blocker Charlie Cotney. She recorded a team-best 89 blocks in 2020 and finished third in kills with 105.
Her presence front and center should only grow in 2021.
“She’s gonna be a big contributing factor,” Turner said. “A lot of the responsibilities of the offense are gonna lie on her shoulders, because she does have experience. So we’re going to look to that experience to start the season off.”
Turner is unsure exactly who will join her on the attack. Eighth grader Takenzie Woods has been called up to the varsity roster as an outside hitter as Turner tests her options in that regard.
Right now the Generals are working out four days a week with strength and conditioning, and their first play date arrives July 26 against Benjamin Russell.
All the rotational tactics and more advanced strategy Turner used with her lineups last year have gone out the window. It’s all about the building blocks of the sport for now, she said.
“We’re gonna start with the basic fundamentals of volleyball, just making sure that we are fundamentally sound. Going over the passing and the hitting and setting and of course serving, and making sure that the girls are working mostly basics.”
The team’s efforts in that area will ramp up when practices start around the state Aug. 2. Turner has told her team that that’s the date she’s lasered in on right now.
Horseshoe Bend’s very new lineup receives its first test against Handley three weeks later on Aug. 23.