FORT SMITH – Preseason practice began on Monday for the UAFS volleyball team, and veteran Lady Lions coach Jane Sargent said she was pleased with the team’s first workouts.
“Practice started on a very high note with energy and focus” said Sargent, who begins her 21st season as Lady Lions coach. “As practice continued, there was a great development to paying attention to detail and maintaining balance. The ladies were embracing a knew foundation and approach to the game.”
It was the first of the Lady Lions two-a-day practice regimen, which will continue through the week.
“The focal point at this time is to work on the overall team strengths, along with ball control and working together as a team in moments of chaos,” Sargent said.
It’s a relatively new team with only seven returning players from last year’s team – redshirt freshman libero Pilar Onstad from Blaine, Minn.; senor right-side hitter Taylor Clay from Catoosa, Okla.; sophomore setter Laryssa Correa from San Antonio, Texas; junior outside hitter Anna Demmer from Lee’s Summit, Mo.; senior middle hitter Debra Rogers from Tulsa, Okla.; sophomore outside hitter Rachel Williams from Mesquite, Texas; and junior outside hitter Lauren Wood from Plano, Texas.
Last year, Demmer led the team in kills (455) and aces (45) and was named Heartland Conference Player of the Year, First Team All-Conference, First Team AVCA All-South Central Region and Second Team D2CCA All-South Central Region. Rogers led the team in total blocks (144) and blocks per set (1.22) and was First Team All-Conference.
UAFS also will welcome back redshirt sophomore right-side hitter Erin Black from Greenwood, Ark., who returns to the team after not playing last season. She is the former Heartland Conference Freshman of the Year.
The Lady Lions have eight new players – redshirt sophomore middle hitter/right-side hitter Balie Stamps from Salina, Kan.; junior setter Averi Foster from Round Rock, Texas; freshman libero Lexi Castillow from Greenwood, Ark.; freshman defensive specialist Delanie Coroiescu from New Caney, Texas; freshman defensive specialist Jazzlyn Wells from Lebanon, Mo.; freshman right-side hitter Faith Marabella from Friendswood, Texas; freshman setter Taylor Stoops from Waxahachie, Texas; and junior middle hitter Brylee Burroughs from Arkansas City, Kan.
“The freshman class, overall, did an exceptional job,” Sargent said. “Everyone is working on developing their own craft to the sport at this point. The newcomers brought in great energy and were very vocal on and off the court.”
The Lady Lions are the six-time defending Heartland Conference regular season champions. It will be their final season as a member of the Heartland Conference, which will disband following the 2018-19 season. UAFS and eight other current conference schools will join the Lone Star Conference beginning with the 2019-20 season.
UAFS will host its annual blue-white scrimmage at 6 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 20, at the Stubblefield Center. The Lady Lions will begin the regular season on Friday, Aug. 24, when they begin play in the two-day Kathleen Brasfield Invitational hosted by Angelo State at the Junell Center in San Angelo, Texas.
The Lady Lions will make their home debut against Arkansas-Monticello at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 28, at the Stubblefield Center.