Bella Studdard and Cameron Tubbs have an obvious and unmistakable chemistry whenever they take to a field or court together.
Despite a year of age difference, the duo have been playing on the same sports teams since Studdard was in seventh grade, and with that they know each other's tendencies. What motivates the other. How the other approaches the game.
It’s no wonder why the duo make such an effective, in-sync tandem at setter for Reeltown volleyball.
“Our bond on the court is really good because of our bond off the court,” Tubbs said. “If you aren’t together off the court, then you can’t bond together on the court.”
Now in their third year setting the table together for the Rebels’ hitters, Studdard and Tubbs have been told by head coach Kelli Hilyer that it’s their job to get the team’s offense going, and it’s a pressure they’re prepared to handle as they enter their final volleyball season together searching for an area title.
“Their experience playing together has made it to where we can grow our offense a little bit more,” Reeltown head coach Kelli Hilyer said.
Studdard and Tubbs played their first athletic season together during Studdard’s seventh grade softball season.
Later that year the elder of the duo became one of the foundational members of Reeltown’s then-brand-new volleyball program, with this year the last of what will have been five seasons with the team for Studdard.
“We started out not knowing anything, what anything was like,” Studdard said. “We slowly have just gotten better and better and we just keep practicing and pushing ourselves. We’re just growing to love the game, and going to these other tournaments and playdates, it shows us other things we can do.”
Tubbs joined the outfit entering her freshman year.
Studdard and Tubbs have been with the Rebels as setters for three years now. Having such experience at the position allows Hilyer to unveil a variety of lineups against opponents. Reeltown can run a two-setter system or one-setter system, and both Studdard and Tubbs can play front line or back line.
“If one of them has the first touch, then the other setter can step in and set up our offense,” Hilyer said. “They communicate great.”
Passing is always paramount for a setter, but the pair’s service game is also among the best on the Rebels’ roster, Hilyer said.
“I don’t know if I talked about their serving, but they are pretty awesome servers,” Hilyer said. “This summer they’ve really pushed themselves to work on jump serves.”
Jump serving can be better offensively but is more difficult than staying on the ground. It’s a more top-line skill Hilyer’s been ecstatic to see in Reeltown’s young program.
It’s not the only skill Studdard and Tubbs have been working on that’s more on the advanced side technically. They’ve also been adding more setting skills such as slide hits.
“I’ve just always wanted to get better and better each year that I could,” Studdard said. “It just takes hard work and practice. With my setting I’m doing new locations and figuring out new places to put the ball.”
Even more so than their on-court playstyles, Studdard and Tubbs’ personalities are complementary.
Studdard is a more quiet, guide-by-example type of player and person. Hilyer designates her as the leader whose job it is to “get the offense going,” but by Studdard’s own admission, she can be brutal with herself after making a mistake.
Of course, Hilyer and Tubbs are always there to pick her up.
“I’m really close to our girls, so I can just pretty much say, ‘Come on. Get with it,’” Hilyer said, laughing. “‘Get over it, let’s go.’ But really I just tell her, ‘It’s okay, you’re gonna make mistakes.’ That’s what I tell everybody. Volleyball, you’re gonna make mistakes, the other team’s gonna score off your mistakes. It’s how you respond to it.”
Tubbs is more expressive, vocal, in her teammates’ faces trying to ignite the energy it takes to win a volleyball match.
Hilyer described her as someone who displays her emotions on the court, not in a way that’s out of control but in a way that motivates others.
“I express myself. I jump up and down, I’ll clap, I’ll yell,” Tubbs said. “I’m out there with what I say and how I feel about good plays and bad plays.
“If you don’t know that you’ve done something good, or you feel like you’ve done something good and somebody doesn’t let you know, that’s gonna be like, ‘Hey, they don’t see that.’ I just want to let everybody know when they’ve done something good, or if they’ve done something bad try to help them out.”
Whatever Studdard or Tubbs needs in a moment, however, the other has the ability to recognize.
“On the court, we work together really well,” Tubbs said. “She gets me. I get her. We both uplift each other in times when we’re down, and when we’re up we still uplift each other.”
The goal for Tubbs and Studdard in their final year together is to deliver an area championship for the Rebels.
It’d be a huge step for the future.
“I want to go to area, I want to go to regionals and just keep on playing,” Studdard said. “I really want us to have a successful season, because this is my last season playing volleyball. I’m just letting all the girls know we have to stick together.”
Reeltown opens its season against Wadley Monday.