By Gene Phelps
Special to the Gazette
Ace. Dig. Kill. Terminology used by a jet fighter pilot? No, three important player statistics needed for success in high school volleyball.
Lisa Bogue (West Union), Josh Blythe (East Union), Robert Gordon (Myrtle) and Andy Wilbanks (Ingomar) – the county’s first-time volleyball coaches for the first-year sport – all plan to become familiar with those terms this summer.
“I think it’s going to be neat and challenging for all of us,” said Gordon, who also coaches baseball at Myrtle.
Added Wilbanks, who also coaches baseball at Ingomar, “I played volleyball some recreationally. It’s a fun sport. It’s a really good sport.”
West Union coach Lisa Bogue who coaches fastpitch softball says girls and boys played volleyball from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. last week during field day activities.
“They really had fun playing; we even had a teacher’s team,” she said. “They’re enthusiastic about it. I’m looking forward to coaching it.”
The county schools dropped slowly-dying MHSAA slow-pitch softball to add up-and-coming volleyball for the 2019-20 school year. Myrtle and West Union will play as independents this season while Ingomar and East Union will play in the MHSAA’s Class I, Region 2.
The students at all the schools have responded with great interest from junior high through varsity. Ingomar had 70-plus sign up, East Union 60-plus, West Union 50-plus and Myrtle 40-plus.
“The excitement is here,” East Union’s Blythe said, who went out a state champion in softball during the past year. “We’re embracing it. It’s an exciting time.”
Ingomar’s Wilbanks says he’s lucky to have a former club and high school volleyball player as his assistant coach – Megan Handler. His first cousin, former Ripley coach Anna Hamilton, has also helped him.
“I’ve watched a lot of volleyball on You Tube,” Wilbanks said, then chuckled. “I’m getting an idea of some of the basic fundamentals we’ll need to have to move on. We want to learn the techniques and the basic drills.”
Gordon got his first taste of volleyball last summer while attending the Mississippi Association of Coaches all-star volleyball matches.
“It was pretty awesome to watch those girls play,” he said. “I pay attention to all the little things and try to pickup on stuff.”
Blythe has a former volleyball mom and school staffer, Kalicia Henderson, helping him. Alcorn Central coach Eric Lancaster is bringing some of his players to East Union to conduct a camp this summer.
“We want our kids to be prepared,” Blythe said. “There will be a learning curve for me and the players.”
All the coaches want to build competitive programs from the start.
“This is Ingomar, and anything we do, we want to do it well,” Wilbanks said. “We’ll have to grow. We want to be good at it. I think with the type of kids we have here we can be competitive sooner than later.”
Added Gordon, “We want to do it right. I can’t stand to lose at marbles or whatever. We want to be competitive. I know it’s a learning year, but I want to win and give the kids some confidence.”