Aug. 19, 2014
BEAUMONT - With school starting next week and the 2014 volleyball season getting going the ensuing weekend, first-year head coach Alan Edwards and his Lady Cards are hitting the home stretch of his first preseason camp.
Annual Red/White Scrimmage set for Saturday
Lamar fans will get their first chance to see the new look Lady Cards later this week as the team will hold its traditional Red/White match on Saturday at 10 a.m. at McDonald Gym. It will mark the only chance to see the squad in action prior to the start of Southland Conference season as LU will spend its first four weeks participating in nonconference tournaments around the country.
The LU home opener is set for Saturday, September 27 vs. Sam Houston State.
Volleyball coaches participate in Ice Bucket Challenge
After getting challenged by the head volleyball coach at Marist College, Edwards and assistant coach Kacie Ehinger (a former Marist assistant) participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The two were tasked with either making a donation to ALS research or getting a bucket of ice water dumped on them.
"I've been really amazed by how the challenge has taken the country by storm," Edwards said. "I know it started up in the Northeast, and I really found out about it from my old colleagues at Iona College. I've been watching it cycle through for a few weeks, and we were more than happy to participate. We got called out by Tom Hanna, who's a friend of mine, and it was a lot of fun.
The challenge, which has dominated social media for the better part of a month, has been credited for increasing ALS donations by more than 400 percent from a year ago. It has also served to increase awareness of the ailment, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, exponentially.
Edwards enjoying spotlight in Beaumont
At some schools, it's a rare achievement for a volleyball coach to receive regular television coverage, and for a coach who previously helmed programs not far removed from the major cities Atlanta and New York City, it's a welcome change.
"It's always great to have the local media out here," Edwards said. "They've come down for practices, and they've been out here for camp. I've never been in a place where local news would come out to interview for camp. I'm still surprised when people will come up and talk to me at a grocery store and refer to me as `Coach.' It's been great, and I'm real excited to get back home and play in front of those folks next month."
With a lot of new faces in the fold this season and a new staff, this year's preseason has included a number of position battles. LU already boasts two of the conference's most prominent middle blockers as well as a pair of senior passers, but a lot is up for grabs at setter and on the outside as each player vying for the positions is set to begin either her first or second season for the Lady Cards.
At setter, the Lady Cards bring back one of its primary facilitators in sophomore Ashley Ellis, who dished out 239 assists in 33 sets as a freshman. Also in the mix are Jenna Jackson, a junior transfer out of Lee College, and freshman Amanda Parsons.
"We have three setters in the gym right now," Edwards explained after Monday's practice. "It really started to look like Ashley Ellis had established herself after last week, but Jenna came out strong again today and did really well. Amanda and Jenna are still learning how to run our tempo and where we want things set. It's been a bit more up-and-down for them, but you kind of expect that with kids who are just getting on campus."
On the outside, sophomores Sara Landis, Autumn Taylor and Nicole Parish will be looking to contribute. Landis, who racked up 83 kills in 60 sets primarily from the middle last season, is aiming to hold down a spot on the right side, and the other two will be looking to grab a spot in the rotation on the left.
"We're always looking to who can be most effective on the outside, and we don't really look at it as a right side-or-left side," Edwards revealed. "Autumn's come back fit and really strong. She's been hitting a really heavy ball, and it can snap your head around at practice. Earlier today we ran some 6-on-6, and she had about nine swings and put them all away. Nicole's passing has really been outstanding, and it's nice to see her and Autumn excelling. Sara's done a great job of blocking on the right side, and she'll make some plays in practice that are just mind-bogglingly good."
Even with high praise for the returners, Edwards added that his newcomers also bring a lot to the table.
"The battle for the outside spots is still very wide open," he continued. "Carlyn Stella's come in, and she handles the ball great and hits a pretty heavy ball. Amethyst Hollowell has really impressed me. She passes well, jumps well, hits well and she'll come in and watch film as well. She's very coachable and wants to be great."