By Gene Phelps
Special to the Gazette
East Union conducted two volleyball camps this summer for its first-year team. Two of the goals were: teach the game and identify players/positions.
It didn’t take long to find the team’s setter – sophomore Harleigh Wheelington. She quickly impressed the camp directors, Keith Haney of Tupelo Core Volleyball and Alcorn Central coach Eric Lancaster.
“You’ve got to have a good setter,” East Union coach Josh Blythe said. “Both coaches said Harleigh can set. I told her the other day she might not be coming off the floor.”
Wheelington, who also plays fast pitch softball, was interested in trying out for volleyball. However, she’s short and figured her position choices were limited.
“I took some lessons from a coach in Booneville,” she said. “He taught me how to set the ball. I caught on quick. I’ve enjoyed learning how to set. I just love volleyball.”
The volleyball setter is much like the point guard in basketball. Her job is to distribute the ball the team’s taller hitters.
“When you’re a setter you have to be ready to move,” she said. “We’re all new, so you don’t know where the ball is going to be coming from. You have to get to the ball as quick as you can.
“I’m going to be nervous when we play. There’s so much to learn.”
East Union has one player on its roster with volleyball experience – seventh grader Jessica Henderson – who has two years of club-play experience.
Henderson is a transfer from Tupelo. Her mom, Kalicia Henderson, is Blythe’s assistant coach.
“I think we’re doing well,” Jessica Henderson said during a practice break. “It’s been fun. We’re improving.”
Henderson will play outside hitter for the junior varsity and could be Wheelington’s backup setter in varsity games.