Seahawks look to build on last year’s success|Balanced team should be competitive

Published 12:20 pm Saturday, August 15, 2009

Contributing Writer

The Southside Lady Seahawks soared into the postseason last year as they ran the table at the Atlantic Conference tournament, then made a playoff push that lasted all the way into the third round.
Southside volleyball coach Elizabeth Pruden can’t exactly pinpoint what inspired her Seahawks at the end of the 2008 campaign, but hopes that it can continue as her team prepares for its season opener on Monday against Washington.
“I’m not really sure what happened at the end of last year,” Pruden said. “I think we just got to the point where they realized they had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Once they realized that, they really took off.”
Pruden lost three key players from the 2008 team that placed second in the conference at the end of the regular season, but the Seahawks’ third-year coach feels her senior-heavy squad can absorb the loss.
“We lost Mandi (Harding), Daneilya (Whitney) and Dot (Jones), so we lost two middle hitters and my setter,” Pruden said. “But I’ve picked up two middle hitters from JV in Atyana (Starkie) and Nikki (Hodges), but my setters have never done it before this year.”
Southside may have lost some valuable players from last season, but the team will feature seven seniors this year. The crew also has a strong bond with each other, something that wasn’t always the case in 2008.
“Our chemistry this year is a lot better,” Pruden said. “We are working together more, and we understand each other better. I think we trust each other more than we did last year. It shows on the court too, we are becoming a lot better (as a) ball team.”
The chemistry may be much improved, but Pruden said her team’s ball-handling is a little behind.
“We need to do a better job of passing, definitely,” Pruden said. “We also need to work on our hitting variations. … We need to bring it up to the next level.”
Pruden said her goal for this year’s team is the same as it is every season, to win the conference and a state title. Providing leadership for the Seahawks will be seniors Caitlin Bogart, Kristen Ayers, Courtney Avery, Becky Poole, Lindsay Mitchell and Jessica Taylor.
Those goals may be tougher this season, as the Atlantic Conference has merged with the Albemarle Conference to form the Four Rivers Conference. However, Pruden feels her team has the right mix to be in the top portion of the newly formed super conference.
“I think we are well-balanced,” Pruden said. “We have a great front line and have great hitters all around. We also play great defense, so I think we are a well-balanced team.”
Southside’s balance will be put to the test Monday when it opens its season against Washington.