Lamar volleyball team will feature new faces

Posted Monday, Jul. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Last season, the Lamar volleyball roster was dominated by upperclassmen.

Gone from the Lady Vikings’ 2012 squad are seven seniors, including Star-Telegram Super Team Player of the Year Ashley Elrod.

This season’s team will likely feature just two seniors, one of whom didn’t see the court last year.

But Amber Buechele plans to make up for lost time in her final year at Lamar. The senior hitter tore an ACL in preseason practice last season, reducing her to spectator. Nine months of rehab later, she can barely put into words how excited she is to return to the floor.

“Oh my gosh, I’m so pumped,” she said. “Last year was difficult just sitting on the sidelines, just watching the team. It was hard not being able to get out there.”

Fully recovered now, Buechele, along with fellow senior libero Andee Gentry, will be leaned on by coach Kate Wood to help guide a team that will be largely underclassmen.

“I’m hoping they’ll provide leadership and stability,” Wood said. “So far, what they’ve done in the offseason and summer, I’ve been really impressed with the leadership they’ve provided.”

Buechele feels like spending last season on the sidelines gave her a new perspective.

“Just watching game after game after game, it definitely helped me get smarter,” she said. “I feel like, from a coaching aspect, I know the form and technique and have gotten a lot smarter with it. I can recognize, like if someone isn’t keeping their elbow in when hitting, and tell them. I think as a senior and a captain, you need someone like that, and I think that definitely helped me. And hopefully that will benefit the team.

“Not being out there and just being able to watch, it’s like I grew more,” Buechele added. “That’s all I could do was motivate them and push them, and now that I’ll be out there, it’ll be easier.”

Speed over size

The Lady Vikings aren’t totally bereft of experience despite the departures. Four junior players received playing time last season as sophomores.

Wood thinks the biggest issue for the Lady Vikings in 2013 may not be experience, but size.

“Our main issue will be height: We won’t be very big,” she said. “So we’ve been working a lot defensively on trying to dig balls. We’ve spent the majority of offseason on passing and defense, knowing that we were going to be small.

“In volleyball you have to run an offense around the personnel you have,” she added. “Our goal this year will be to go faster. Last year, we played a pretty slow offense because we had bigger hitters. The pace of it wasn’t as important. Now that our hitters are smaller, we’ll need to be able catch the other team off guard. That will be our overall goal. In order for that to happen, we’ll have to pass really, really well.”

If summer league play is any indication, the Lady Vikings have adapted quite well.

“We lost so many people and lost a lot of height from our team that at first we were a little discouraged and a little scared,” Buechele said. “But after working together this summer in workouts and playing together in summer leagues against actual other teams, that was a huge boost of confidence because we all played as a team perfectly. There wasn’t one go-to person; it was such a good team effort. I feel like that motivated us and that was a really good sign to see. We know we have the ability to all pitch in and get the job done.”

Pulling together

That early team chemistry is a welcome sign for Wood.

“I think one of the areas in which we excel is that our kids genuinely enjoy being around each other,” she said. “They hang out together; they laugh together. So that’s kind of exciting to see.”

It also means that Wood will be able to use the early season tournaments to focus on tactical issues instead of intangible ones.

“You’re just trying to figure out how it’s going to work as a team and who’s going to emerge on the floor and be that person who’s going to get you a side out, or who you can count on to step back and serve you an ace,” she said. “You’re figuring all those things out in the first three weeks. As you move into the district season, you’re prepared for the games that really matter.”

Lamar’s Arlington rivals have captured consecutive district titles, but both Wood and Buechele feel like the 3-5A trophy could end up any number of places this year.

“I definitely think the district title is up for grabs,” Wood said.

“I think we have a really good chance of being up there,” Buechele added. “All of the other schools lost as many players as we did. I think the playing field is pretty level right now, and after watching some of the teams and playing some of the teams in summer league, I feel like we definitely have a good shot.”

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