Can anyone beat Horseshoe Bend’s volleyball team?
That is the question right now, and it’s starting to seem like the answer is no.
The Generals have extended their winning to a shocking 20 matches — more games than some teams even play in a year. And they don’t seem to be stopping any time soon as they look to clinch the area tonight against Woodland and LaFayette, both teams they’ve already beaten this year.
“We’re playing really well together, especially for the last two to three weeks,” Horseshoe Bend coach Julie Turner said. “At times we get down and start off on a bad night, but they’ve come back and learned how to fight. Volleyball has got such big momentum swings and their experience has helped them with that. In the past couple years, if we ever got down, we were done.”
Now sitting at 24-4, Horseshoe Bend has several really strong areas.
Each and every match, the General offense has been very well-balanced and that shows in the overall stats. Eight different players have at last 20 kills and three more have at least three.
Caly Carlisle is the obvious leader with 124 kills, but Kate Lewis (73), Jahia Jennings (72) and Harleigh Moss (67) have been bigtime contributors as well.
“That’s a big key because every night we depend on a different person,” Turner said. “Caly is our strongest hitter right now but overall our second and third hitters are sometimes coming off the bench.”
That’s a big reason why Horseshoe Bend moved to a two-setter rotation this season. With Lewis and Karsen Kinman both doing work at setter, the Generals always have three options for hitters in the front row. And those hitters, who now have a ton of experience under their belts, are also becoming smarter in addition to being stronger.
“We’re learning how to play the ball and which areas to go to, and our setters are more mature too,” Turner said. “They know if the ball comes to the right side, you push the ball to the left side to throw the defense off a little. It’s just different strategies like that we’ve worked on.”
Now in her third season as head coach, Turner didn’t know what to expect when she took over because her team was so young. But she’s working with virtually the same group as she was back then and that experience is starting to pay dividends.
But there are still some youngsters on the team who are contributing regularly.
Charlie Cotney has come on strong as a front-row player and Carley Forbus is seeing more and more varsity playing time as the year goes on.
“I pull them off the bench at different times and for different positions and they’ve both really done well,” Turner said. “Charlie really has come around on her blocking, and Carley will play back row in one set and front in the second set. Having that extra element has really helped our overall game.”
Horseshoe Bend is hunting down its third straight area title, but this year, it’s looking to go much further in the postseason. One thing Turner is hoping will help the Generals at regionals is they’ll be used to tournament play. HBS has won three tournaments so far.
“In the postseason, it’s game after game back to back and our girls are really in shape,” Turner said. “We may play five games in a day (at a tournament) but you never know it by talking to them. They’re ready to go again. That has helped and it’s also helped mentally.”
Obviously a 20-game win streak is something to be extremely proud of but the Generals don’t want to get complacent. There’s still a lot more volleyball to be played this season.
“It feels good and I have to attribute it to the girls,” Turner said. “They’ve really worked hard. But you have to stay grounded.”