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Sand Rock has tools for another volleyball postseason run

Sand Rock senior outside hitter Hannah Davis stretches to kill a ball during volleyball practice on Monday. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan
SAND ROCK – Sand Rock volleyball coach Lisa Bates joked she would don a hazmat suit on the bench if it meant the Lady Wildcats would have a season. That’s how much confidence she has in the girls she has on her team this season.
Once again, the Lady Wildcats have the tools to make a deep postseason run. The only thing Bates has to figure out is a way for them all to gel together.
“We’ve got all the parts we need. We’ve just got to get them working together. That’s the biggest thing,” Bates said. “We have five seniors, but we’re inexperienced at the same time. We lost four starters off the floor. We’ve got a bunch of people who have not played varsity ball who will be starting and playing major roles for us, so that’s going to be interesting.”
Two of Sand Rock’s top returners from last year’s Class 2A Final Four team is senior outside hitter Hannah Davis and junior libero Caley Garrett.
Davis delivered 390 digs, 359 kills, 43 aces, 33 blocks and 12 assists for the Lady Wildcats last season. Garrett collected 932 digs, 72 assists, 55 aces and 10 kills.
The other four seniors Bates has on her roster are right side hitter Cheyanne Fuqua, middle hitter Maci Brown (who is taking her sister Mattie Brown’s spot), and Bates’s “little bits” in Haylee Stansell and Mackenzi Blackwell.
“Cheyanne has some experience and she’s gotten better. Maci did a lot of playing on JV last year to get her ready, and she’s really come on. Haylee and Mackenzi will be playing back row. They’ve worked hard for me since sixth grade. They just don’t have a lot of experience.”
Junior Lanie Henderson returns to the middle to pair with Maci Brown. Bates said Henderson has grown taller during the off-season.
“We’re hoping she’s going to be even stronger this year so we can get a lot more out of her offense-wise. She’s hitting the ball pretty hard, so we’re excited about that,” Bates said.
The Lady Wildcats also lost both of their setters from last season. Expected to help fill those spots is versatile sophomore Jacey Stephens and junior McKenna Ballenger.
“McKenna’s got a lot of ability and talent. She just doesn’t have a lot of varsity experience,” Bates said.
“Jacey is going to be playing all around for us. She’s going to be hitting on front row and setting for us this year. She’s been working really hard on her own. We’re looking for big things out of her. She’s got a lot of length so I’m hoping she’s going to give us some good blocking from the right side position.”
Bates said there’s a battle going on for her other outside hitter positions between sophomore Jadyn Foster and freshman Katelyn St. Clair.
“Jaydn is getting up and really figuring it out with volleyball, how to use her power. She’s just a strong girl,” Bates said. “Katelyn is going to be a good athlete for us too over the next few years.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lady Wildcats were limited with what they could do together during the off-season. They played together in an officials play date a couple of weeks at Glencoe and are expecting to play
in another on Saturday.
“We’ve worked all summer since June 1. We got in here as soon as they told us we could,” Bates said. “They worked on their own during the quarantine. We got together once a week with Zoom meetings, but it’s not the same as being together. We worked on just getting us better individually. It wasn’t bad. I feel like we got a lot accomplished over the summer individually, but now we’ve just got to work on getting our chemistry together.”
Sand Rock competes in Class 2A, Area 12 along with Gaston, Spring Garden and Westbrook Christian. Bates is excited for the challenges the Lady Wildcats new area brings.
“It’s going to be a very interesting year, but we’re going to do the best we can,” she said. “I know we’re going to have a tough area. It’ll be real competitive. That’s what makes it fun. I expect us to be competitive, no matter who’s on the floor. We expect it to be a fun, competitive year.”

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