New Cutter Morning Star head volleyball coach Brittany Senn said she is optimistic as the Lady Eagles prepare for their first match Thursday at Hot Springs.
The Lady Eagles held their Black and Red Scrimmage Tuesday night in the school's multi-use facility.
The varsity team dominated the first of the two sets, winning 25-18 after junior setter Haley Scott and junior outside hitter Kara Kinkaid led off with strong service. Senn divided the teams more evenly for the second set as the varsity-laden red team won, 25-18.
"I saw a lot of good things," she said. "We had some good camps this summer, but tonight -- we've been stressing communication. I saw a lack of it that first game in a little session on my side. I think they kind of got razzled, a little nerves, which is why it's good to have these games. They're just going to have to learn to communicate when things go awry because it's going to go awry at some point. I thought they did a better job with that.
"I thought our serves were a little better when we got a chance to settle in, and I thought our hitting looked pretty good tonight when we got the chance to hit. We had multiple people setting and hitting. It wasn't just the same people over and over, and I like that, multiple weapons."
Kinkaid dominated on the back line, picking up a single dig and kill with three assists.
"She's probably our best player," Senn said. "I expect her to go play somewhere in college. She does it throughout the summer. She works really hard."
Scott showed off in her role as setter, accumulating 13 in the two sets while serving for a pair of aces.
"She's very volleyball savvy -- knows when to set, when to tip," Senn said. "She's grown a lot. She didn't play much last year, considering that, she's one of our key players."
Although junior libero Madison Bellomy did not have much in the way of digs, she performed well all over the court, tallying five assists and two kills.
"She's going to be fine," Senn said. "She's having to work a little harder, but she's got a tough job. That's got to be a gritty player, someone who can forget the last play and move on. She gives me all of her heart and her energy, and that's what I need out of that position."
With 12 players on the high school squad, as well as 12 on the junior high squad, Senn feels fairly comfortable going into the season, despite having no seniors on the team.
"We're probably about nine deep," she said of the varsity squad. "Obviously, we're going to have your JV team, but I would say it's pretty even. It's not crazy out of balance. ... We are young, but that is a good thing."
Senn took over the team in May after Jason Freeman left following the Lady Eagles' 4-25 finish last season.
"It's basically the same girls that are in basketball plus a few," she said. "It has been a really great experience. I have kind of fallen in love with the game of volleyball along with basketball. It's been fun. The girls are very excited. We went 10-2 in one of our last camps. We're doing really well.
"We've kind of changed our scheme up this year, kind of moved some girls around in different spots. We've got more girls doing more things, not just one girl doing one thing. Everybody is involved. I have a big junior class (of eight) that is a great group of leaders for that team. I look for us to do really well."
The junior class has a special bond with Senn, as the coach has been working with the athletes for five years.
"It will be sad to see them go when they graduate," she said. "They are a great leadership group. They were actually my seventh graders when I first got the job here, so they're kind of like mine. They've really turned our girls athletic program around from when I got here. If it wasn't for them, Cutter wouldn't be on the map as far as girls athletics. They've worked really hard to get it where it is today."
Co-captain Scott anchors the team at setter with classmate and fellow co-captain Kinkaid at the outside hitter position.
"(Kinkaid) is a key," Senn said. "She's probably our best player overall. They're all good. Haley Scott is going to be our main setter. She's very good; she's very volleyball savvy."
Brecken Knott-Debord, a 5-8 sophomore, will also get some time at setter.
"She's probably one of the best female athletes we have on campus," Senn noted. "She is definitely an asset."
Bellomy, who Senn says is "very, very gritty," anchors the defense at libero while classmate McKenna Knott-Debord will also add stability on the back row.
Junior Trinity Raper will be a big asset up front as one of the main blockers.
"She has probably grown the most this summer as far as her aggression," Senn said. "She has really been a force on the net. I look for big things from her this year."
Corbett Sutton, Kinkaid's father, is a volunteer assistant coach for the Lady Eagles as well.
"We sat down at the beginning and wrote down where they played last year and the things they they did and the things that might need to be changed," Senn said. "Then we sat down and watched a few practices (to determine placement)."
The Lady Eagles start with Thursday's benefit against the Class 5A Lady Trojans, but they do not back down with Class 6A Sheridan, Class 3A Perryville and Class 5A White Hall visiting Eagle Fieldhouse before their conference opener against St. Joseph, who was a quarterfinalist in the Class 3A state tournament last season.
"We're going to start out with a few big schools," Senn said. "By doing that, not only are we playing bigger schools, we're playing bigger athletes, faster athletes. That's good for our program and our girls overall to grow and to show us what we need to work on getting into our conference play. We beat some of those bigger schools in team camps, but you can't really base things off team camps. But I look for us to compete very well with them."
One of the most significant factors Senn said she is working to overcome is dealing with the mental side of the game.
"Developing that winning mentality -- for five years in the basketball program, that's what we've been building," she said. "Now we need to transfer that into the volleyball program because they haven't won many games the past few years. ... To come in and develop that mentality that, 'Yes, we are here to win. We are Cutter, and we're a force to be reckoned with.' I think that's what we're motivated to do."
Sports on 08/15/2018
Print Headline: Lady Eagles take off with new coach