NRHS girls start volleyball season

Published 8:59 pm Wednesday, August 24, 2016

By Henry Luzzatto

Correspondent

Last season was a tumultuous one for Nansemond River High School’s girls’ volleyball team. Now with a more stable beginning to the season, head coach Robin Smith said the Lady Warriors look to put the drama of last season behind them.

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“Last season was a little stressful, at times,” Smith said recently.

The 2015 season saw Nansemond River moved to a different conference. The Lady Warriors began the season with new head coach Mandy McManus in charge, but McManus had to leave, resulting in Smith, the junior varsity coach, taking over.

“Last season, I took over when the previous coach left,” Smith said. “The season before that, I ended up coaching both JV and varsity. This is the first season I’ve had as a coach where I knew what I would be doing before the summer.”

With a more organized summer, Smith said she had a chance to communicate with her players and have them set up better for the upcoming season.

“Everyone’s feeling relieved,” Smith said. “The girls are more relaxed, and they’re concentrating on volleyball.”

Smith said she hopes the team will use the more restful beginning of the season to develop their skills and improve on last year.

Nansemond River finished the 2015 season with a 6-16 regular season record. The Lady Warriors made it to the conference championship semifinals before being eliminated by Warwick High School.

The team’s efforts last year were led largely by Camryn Holt, a setter who graduated last year. Holt was named to the all-conference first team for three straight years, and received the honor of team MVP last season. Last season, Holt had 301 assists, 52 kills, 73 aces, six blocks and 129 digs. Smith said Holt was a key part of the team and will be difficult to replace.

“She was fantastic,” the coach said. “She’s a big loss.”

However, Smith said, the team’s second setter, Monet Ballard, can step up to fill the hole that Holt has left.

Ballard is one of many players that Smith said she expects a lot from this season. Smith mentioned outside hitters Maddie Rhoads, a senior, and Abby Bowden, a freshman.

Smith said Bowden and second setter Natalie Hawkins worked on their abilities with a club team during the summer, and the benefits are clear.

“You can really tell that these girls have been putting in the work in the off-season.”

Smith said the team was looking good in preparation for its first match, which was set for 6 p.m. Wednesday against the Lady Packers of Smithfield High School.

“We’ve already seen the influence of a settled pre-season,” Smith said. “There was no switch up in the week before. I was able to keep in touch and establish guidelines and expectations over the summer.”

Smith said she wants the team to improve on last season’s record; something over .500 would be great, she added. However, she said the scores don’t matter nearly as much as the team’s feelings of accomplishment.

“We want to continue what they’ve built on,” Smith said. “They should feel successful no matter what the scores say.”