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CANNELTON—Cannelton’s volleyball team went 1-25 last season and graduated seven seniors. But new coach Leslie Henrickson thinks the Bulldogs will be greatly improved this year.
The Bulldogs went 6-9 in junior varsity matches last year and have a lot of athletic juniors and sophomores returning. In 5-foot-10 sophomore Julia Allen they have their tallest hitter in six years.
“We’ve got some really good passers and their hitting has really improved from the first practice,” Henrickson said Tuesday. “We also have quite a few strong servers.”
They lack experienced setters, as they graduated their top two last year. And Henrickson plans to run a 6-2 offense, which means she will need two varsity setters.
“So we had to find some setters,” she said. “But they’re doing pretty well.”
She plans to start Jessica Gillans as one setter and alternate Sammie James and Taylor Lawalin at the other one.
As Leslie Wrye, Henrickson was an All-PAC setter for Tell City six years ago, so she knows the requirements for the position and how to teach it.
“Our setting has progressed pretty well,” she said. “They have to work a little more on accuracy but they have the soft hands for it.”
Lawalin will be a strong-side hitter in the front row when she’s not setting. Allen will be a middle hitter and Gracie Kellems will also be a front-row hitter.
Junior Sarah Powers and sophomore Allicyn Garrett will play all around. Sophomore Kara Jones will see action in the back row.
Senior Leah Mascolo will be the team’s libero, a back-row-only player, because “she’s probably our best passer,” said Henrickson.
Serve reception was one of the Bulldogs’ weaknesses last year. “We’re working on it,” said Henrickson. “We’ve got some accurate passers: Leah, Sarah, Allie (Garrett) and Sammie.”
Cannelton servers could give opponents problems as well.
“We’ve got a lot of strong, accurate servers,” said Henrickson. “Kara Jones, Sammie and Taylor are very accurate. “Sarah and Allicyn are neck and neck for tops in accuracy and power.”
Henrickson said the team’s spiking “looks pretty good. We have accuracy more than power, though Sarah and Allie can really hit the ball hard and accurate.”
Henrickson said the team’s blocking, a weakness last year, is also “looking pretty good. “Sarah’s not very tall but she can really jump. Allie, Julia, Sarah and Gracie are all good blockers.
“Allie and Julia together should be our top blocking combination.”
Henrickson said she doesn’t know who will be the Bulldogs’ top opponents. “Truthfully, I don’t even know who half these teams on our schedule are because we didn’t play them at Tell City (when she was a player or two years ago when she was the Marksmen’s freshman coach).”
But she thinks the Bulldogs can “definitely” compete for their Class A sectional title.
“I have full faith that we’re going to win a lot of games this year. They’re all working hard.
“We’ve just got to work on our serve-receive. If we get that down, we don’t have any problems getting the sets up to the hitters.”