The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Heber volleyball braves heat

  • Heber Springs’ volleyball team enjoyed a mild summer until the opening week of school, when a heat wave left the Lady Panthers practicing in a sweltering hot old gym not far from the friendly confines of the new gym.
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  • Heber Springs’ volleyball team enjoyed a mild summer until the opening week of school, when a heat wave left the Lady Panthers practicing in a sweltering hot old gym not far from the friendly confines of the new gym.
    It’s nothing knew to the Lady Panthers, who have practiced and played home games in the old gym since their inaugual season in 2012.
    “It’s obviously hot over here,” said Coach Andrea Riggs. “It’s hard not to notice that it’s hot over here and cold over there. But I always tell our players that we can’t focus on that. This is our third year, we can only focus on the game and not ... Well we have this and they have that. I think they are confident in the fact we are working on it and it can’t happen over night.
    “Coach [Brad] Reese (athletic director) and I actually had this conversation today. We are going to get somebody in to take a look at it. They are trying. This is a new sport for the school so we can’t expect everything to be fantastic. It would have been nice when they built that gym for somebody to have the foresight to put lines and standards in there but they didn’t.”
    Other than the heat factor, Riggs said the old gym is a perfect size. “This is a great size because even at the basketball games it feels empty. And at volleyball games you are not going to draw as big of a crowd as basketball. We were really spoiled this summer with cool air it’s just taken a little transition to this heat and we are still not acclimated to it.”
    The senior-laden Lady Panthers, who return six players with starting experience, including heavy hitters McKinsea Volbrecht, Kaitlyn Bradke and Stephanie Music, kept a smile on their face despite the hot environment, which was similar to a sauna inside as the temperatures reached 99 degrees outside.
    In their third year as a program with only a few wins under their belt, the Lady Panthers are hoping to take a step forward this season. Riggs is confident in all of 10 of her varsity players and hopes a new offensive scheme with one setter will help simplify the game.
    “They look better than they ever have,” said Riggs. “I think we are better right now starting the season than we ever have been. I think we have the potential that the girls can go to state this year if they play hard. As far as the way they mesh together as a team they just seem a little more confident. We are always going to be young until we get a junior high program, but we’ve got several seniors on the court.
    Page 2 of 2 - “They are all doing really well. Stephanie Music is hitting well, McKinsea, Lexi Hartman, Kaityln Bradke and Lexi Lind are all hitting for us. We are changing our offense this year. We are just running one setter. In the past we have run two setters so we actually have a different look,” added Riggs.
    The hitters will rotate. “We’ve got three hitters but we haven’t established who is going to be the primary option.”
    Seniors Jacqueline Addison, Carlie Ludwig, Alyssa Uphoff and Gisselle Rivera are all capable of digs and sets, helping pave the way for the assortment of big hitters patrolling the net. “We are not running a libero this year with a defensive specialist but Gisselle will wear the jersey,” said Riggs.
    Riggs stressed all of her varsity players will get playing time. When asked about the six starters she named the entire team. “Volleyball has become so specialized that they can start without actually being on the court at the start depending on who there partner is.”
    Riggs said Bradke, Ludwig and Volbrecht are the top servers with a few more vying for a chance.
    “We try to pair up a good server with somebody to where we are not going to have to trade out a good server for another good server. We want to try to utilize their strengths. That’s what we try to do but it doesn’t always work out.”
    The Lady Panthers beat Conway St. Joseph in team camp and played competitive matches versus 5A powers Vilonia and Greenbrier.
    Heber will compete in the restructured 4A Central Conference. The league includes Arkansas Baptist, West Helena, Riverview, Lonoke, Southside Batesville, Pulaski Robinson, CAC and Clinton.
    Heber beat Arkansas Baptist in its season opener at home on Monday. Look for story in Friday’s edition.
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