Returning core to fuel SCA volleyball

Published 10:49 pm Thursday, August 14, 2014

Suffolk Christian Academy girls’ volleyball coach Kristy Patton is used to working with a young team like she is again this year, but this season’s squad has a strong upside coupled with the promise of youth.

“The positive is I have quite a few returners,” she said. “For once, we’ve got a solid experienced group, even though they are still young.”

Returning will be rising senior Kelly Lester, rising junior Emma VanDorn, rising sophomores Jordan Edler, Grace Fowler and Julia Powell and rising freshman Miriam Farmer.

Suffolk Christian Academy rising junior Jasmine Smith practices on Thursday. She is new to volleyball but already looks like a veteran.

Suffolk Christian Academy rising junior Jasmine Smith practices on Thursday. She is new to volleyball but already looks like a veteran.

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They come from a 2013 team that went 2-13 overall and 1-9 in the Hampton Roads Athletic Conference, but did advance in the postseason tournament.

Gone from that team is Caitlin Hankins, who graduated, Paxton Longo, who transferred out, and Jenna Rondeau, who moved away.

Patton said the original plan this year had been to field only two girls’ volleyball teams for Suffolk Christian, one varsity and one junior varsity.

But then 30 girls turned out to play this year and convinced Patton and the school to include a junior junior varsity team within the program.

“We’re really pleased with what the future’s going to hold,” Patton said.

This year’s varsity team includes 12 players — two seniors, three juniors, five sophomores and two freshmen.

Patton expects leadership from all of her returners and highlighted Grace Fowler, who is entering her second year on varsity as the Lady Knights’ go-to setter.

“She’s young, but she will lead us,” Patton said.

Among the new players on the team is rising sophomore Megan Harris.

“She’s going to help Grace out with the setting duties,” the coach said, noting Fowler had no back-up last year to help her out.

Rising junior Jasmine Smith will go to work at the middle hitter position.

“She’s brand new to the sport, but she looks like she’s played before,” Patton said.

Also brand new to volleyball is sophomore Kaleigh McLeod, a softball player who looks to help SCA on the court as a defensive specialist.

Given McLeod’s softball arm strength, Patton said, “I’m really expecting her serve to develop over the season.”

The coach said the biggest obstacles to success for the Lady Knights this year will be inexperience and a potential lack of leadership. She noted when new players and young players abound, often team leadership is hard to come by.

In terms of her expectations for the season, Patton definitely expects the team to do better than last year.

“We don’t expect to be at the top; we strive to be at the top,” she said. “More than anything, we want to focus on improvement from day one.”

Suffolk Christian’s season begins next Tuesday at Summit Christian Academy.

“We start with a good challenge,” Patton said.