The Green Ridge volleyball team went from winning a third straight Kaysinger Conference title and reaching a district championship game in 2012 to a 16-12-1 record in 2013.
Through the 2013 season, the Lady Tigers had to adjust to life without Libby Dove, as Dove was sidelined with an ACL injury, but now the senior is back.
“I came back stronger than I was before, I think,” she said. “I got released in March and since then I’ve been working to build it back up. You have to come in slow and work to build it back up and I think I came in a lot stronger because I came back slow.”
Spending a year off the court helped give her a different perspective on the game.
“Watching from the sidelines, you see everything that’s going on and you see all the problems you don’t see when you’re playing,” she said. “Coming back for my senior year, you want it all, you want to go all the way, you want to push your teammates and be a leader.”
Despite the struggles of 2013, the Lady Tigers feel they came out the other side as a better team.
“Everyone kind of put us down last year losing Libby,” said senior BreAnna Peck. “But it only made us stronger as individuals. You don’t only need one person to win a game, but it helps having her. You don’t want to lose a teammate after you’ve had her your whole life, but it also taught us to step up and now we’re a stronger team.”
Peck, along with Dove and other Lady Tigers Sam Unkel, Molly Turner and Mac Scotten, played for a Green Ridge softball team which won a district title in the spring. Peck said that helped her know what it takes to bring a championship home.
“You have to work for it,” she said. “Anybody could take it away from you. It could be a team that’s won two games all year.”
The Lady Tigers volleyball team returns all of its starters from 2013.
“We have a large veteran group and we have a large freshman group coming in that is super talented,” said coach Lori Larimore. “The freshmen came in and they are quick learners and they had an idea about the system. We were able to pick up where we left off and raise the bar a little bit.”
Larimore said the team spent much of the summer working on its defense.
“Instead of making good passes, we’re trying to make perfect passes,” she said.
With a 19-member roster, Green Ridge is two or three players deep at every position. Part of that depth is a freshman class pushing the veterans.
“I would look to see a few girls never leave the court,” Larimore said. “But I would look for a lot of girls to play specific roles. That mindset that we’re working on is that every role is going to be equally important.”
The team is also deep at setter, where Vanessa Hardy returns from last season with Quincy Scotten coming into the program as a freshman. Larimore has worked with Dove in that role as well.
“As a hitter, you know where you want the set so as a setter, you know the position where you are supposed to put the ball,” Dove said.
Another freshman, Madison Bridges, will see playing time up front along with Dove, Turner and Peck. Stacey Billings will spend time on the right side.
The Lady Tigers face a tough schedule, bringing in Osceola and El Dorado Springs for their jamboree Thursday and having Osceola back in a non-conference game Sept. 15. The day after Osceola comes in, the Lady Tigers enter a tough Kaysinger Conference stretch, facing Stover, Sacred Heart and Cole Camp in the span of 10 days.
“I definitely think that it’s going to be a mindset,” Larimore said. “I think that come district time we’re going to be excited that we have such a tough conference. We have teams in the conference that are going to challenge us every ball.”