Lady Colts senior steps into spotlight

Posted Tuesday, Sep. 24, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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After playing a supporting role in years past, all eyes are now on Jacqueline Vernor.

The Arlington High senior middle blocker is in her fourth year on varsity. In the previous three campaigns, her role was that of a standout player who stayed mostly out of the limelight while more attention was paid to now-graduated stars Ashley Mariani and Kaitlyn Granger.

Now, she’s the floor captain and the one her fellow Lady Colts look to for leadership in words and actions. According to her coaches and teammates, Vernor’s handled the expanded spotlight with relative ease while taking her game to a new level.

“Jacqueline’s our senior floor captain and she’s been on varsity since she was a freshman, so she has tons of experience,” junior setter Emma Smith said. “She’s our vocal leader and we all look up to her. She kind of runs the court even if she doesn’t realize it.”

Vernor is also realizing her potential as one of the top players in District 3-5A. Earlier this season, she was named most valuable player of the Mansfield ISD Sunrise Rotary Tournament. She earned that honor by leading the Lady Colts to a tournament title, topping district rival Martin in the final.

And Vernor’s Arlington squad as of Sept. 20 was 3-0 in district play and had yet to drop a game in the three matches. The Lady Colts are the defending district champions and have been four rounds deep in the playoffs two consecutive seasons.

“I guess I have more expectations for myself being a senior,” Vernor said. “If I’m having a bad game, I try leaning on my other captains here to help me out. I never had the pressure of being noticed and now that I’m a floor captain I do sometimes feel it.”

But when Arlington’s in the flow of a match, Vernor feels as comfortable as she’s always been on the court. “Once the game starts, it’s really relaxing,” she said. “I completely trust everyone on the team. … Everyone has equally such a big part and an important part. It doesn’t matter who’s in. We all play really well together.”

It’s the kind of team – with a strong leadership group of juniors and seniors – that coach Kim Tipton-Spencer trusts, even when the Lady Colts are struggling. Against North Crowley, Arlington found itself down eight points in one game before rallying to win the game and go on to a 3-0 sweep.

“People ask, ‘Why don’t you take time outs?’ I know they’re going to come back,” Spencer said. “We’ve had games where we’ve come back by 10 points.”

It’s not that the game’s become easy for Arlington, Spencer said. Rather, her leaders simply show a willingness to go all-out in practice. “The game never gets easier for them because they get more comfortable and push harder through drills,” Spencer said.

The group also respond well to coaching during games, Spencer said. “They make my job easy. If we tell them something during a timeout and they go and do it, they point right at us. They trust us.”

Senior middle blocker Emily Harvey, who forms a formidable “twin tower” duo with Vernor, said the Lady Colts’ on-court success starts with the coach’s high standards. For example, the team regularly goes through intense practices on Wednesdays – the day after evening district matches. They also attend Saturday workouts the day after Friday night matches.

“She’s one of those coaches who will push you harder every day,” Harvey said. “There’s no easy days in volleyball.”

Just because they’re working hard doesn’t mean there’s no time for fun. “They’re serious when we need to be serious, but they joke off the court,” Vernor said of Spencer and assistant coach Heather Dunn Woodman. “That’s where the trust comes from, because we have that friendship and bond behind the scenes.”

Vernor trusts her teammates and coaches to work together to make 2013 a special season. And they likewise trust in Vernor.

“We’re going to keep pushing and striving till we get to our ultimate goal – which is state,” Vernor said.

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