By Garth Shanklin
The Felicity-Franklin Cardinals volleyball team made quite a run in 2015.
Injuries plagued the squad as they entered the postseason, yet despite missing their key player the Lady Cardinals advanced to the sectional finals, falling to Miami Valley Christian Academy in three sets.
Head coach Damon Smith wasn’t sure what to expect when his team took the court for the sectional final match due to an injury to a key player before the sectional tournament even began.
“We were hurt toward the end of the season,” Smith said. “Ashley Moore twisted her ankle in practice and missed the last two weeks of games. I was real pleased with the way the girls regrouped and stepped up their play. We defeated New Miami, and we weren’t expected to win. When we played MVCA, we had played them earlier in the season and we played them pretty competitive. For not having all of our players, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but we played pretty well.”
As they prepare to begin the 2016 campaign, they’re faced with a set of new challenges. For starters, the team has no scrimmages scheduled, which isn’t too hard to overcome. Practicing in the gym can be just as valuable as a scrimmage.
Except, thanks to issues with the surface of the court, the Lady Cardinals haven’t been able to practice in the gym very much during the first official week of fall practice, which began Aug. 1.
At any rate, the Lady Cardinals will look to add some height to their lineup in 2016, something the team lacked last season. Smith said he may rely on a sophomore to make plays for Felicity this season.
“I’ve got a sophomore, Ashley Wilson, who played some varsity last year for us and she should be one of our key players,” Smith said. “I’m just not sure if she’s going to have the aggressiveness that we need on the blocking end and the strength that we need on the hitting. She’s a good hitter and a nice player, she has a lot of potential.”
Smith said another key returner, Lauren Mitchell, should take on a leadership role at the setter position.
“Lauren Mitchell is one of my leaders as a senior,” Smith said. “She’s been a setter for me for three years and if she steps up and plays to her potential as a setter, she could make a difference.”
Smith noted that depending on how the team gels as the season goes on, the squad could make a run toward the end of the regular season.
“In the latter half of the season, once they get some playing time together and learn what each other can do and get their confidence up, I feel confident that we’ll be able to come on strong toward the end of the season.”
Felicity opens the 2016 season at the Madeira Invitational on Aug. 20 at 10 a.m. The team’s first home game of the year comes on Aug. 30 against Blanchester at 6:30 p.m.